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The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates Hardcover – April 27, 2010
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Two hauntingly similar boys take starkly different paths in this searing tale of the ghetto. Moore, an investment banker, Rhodes scholar, and former aide to Condoleezza Rice, was intrigued when he learned that another Wes Moore, his age and from the same area of Greater Baltimore, was wanted for killing a cop. Meeting his double and delving into his life reveals deeper likenesses: raised in fatherless families and poor black neighborhoods, both felt the lure of the money and status to be gained from dealing drugs. That the author resisted the criminal underworld while the other Wes drifted into it is chalked up less to character than to the influence of relatives, mentors, and expectations that pushed against his own delinquent impulses, to the point of exiling him to military school. Moore writes with subtlety and insight about the plight of ghetto youth, viewing it from inside and out; he probes beneath the pathologies to reveal the pressures—poverty, a lack of prospects, the need to respond to violence with greater violence—that propelled the other Wes to his doom. The result is a moving exploration of roads not taken. (May 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* In 2000, Wes Moore had recently been named a Rhodes Scholar in his final year of college at Johns Hopkins University when he read a newspaper article about another Wes Moore who was on his way to prison. It turned out that the two of them had much in common, both young black men raised in inner-city neighborhoods by single mothers. Stunned by the similarities in their names and backgrounds and the differences in their ultimate fates, the author eventually contacted the other Wes Moore and began a long relationship. Moore visited his namesake in prison; he was serving a life sentence, convicted for his role in an armed robbery that resulted in the killing of an off-duty policeman. Growing up, both men were subject to the pitfalls of urban youth: racism, rebellion, violence, drug use, and dealing. The author examines eight years in the lives of both Wes Moores to explore the factors and choices that led one to a Rhodes scholarship, military service, and a White House fellowship, and the other to drug dealing, prison, and eventual conversion to the Muslim faith, with both sharing a gritty sense of realism about their pasts. Moore ends this haunting look at two lives with a call to action and a detailed resource guide. --Vanessa Bush
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Passages of Mr. Moore's book made my stomach hurt. It is a wonderful example showing how the trope "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" to rise out of poverty is pure B.S. The author clearly understands that he had an extended family who personally sacrificed in an effort to save him from being claimed by the streets. It does take a village. The other Wes Moore, however, was not so fortunate despite also being quite intelligent. 'The Other Wes Moore' is snapshots of events which occur between their early childhood in 1982 through to 2000. Mr. Moore writes in a sensitive manner and does a good job explaining the mood of the kids living in black slums as well as the enticements and many obstacles in their way. I grew up in a rural Maine paper mill town. Alcoholism was a big problem but, compared to what is portrayed in 'The Other Wes Moore', our small community had it made.
Our country is littered with ghettos which are landmarks of generational racism towards minorities. Mr. Moore's book like other such works as 'There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America' by Alex Kotlowitz effectively humanize the inner-city predicament. The challenges of living in slums are not someone else's problem. It's a national disgrace and requires a collective effort to rectify or at the very least ameliorate. The author did a public service by writing the book. I'm gonna go hug my sons.
One thing that was difficult about this book is that you are very aware that this was written by a person who only had first-hand knowledge of his own story. So, when reading another character's internal dialog or details about an interaction that he was not a part of, instead of being engrossed in the story I began asking myself, "I wonder who provided that detail? Who provided that perspective?" And the action began to be viewed differently depending on who I thought had actually provided the content.
It must have been extremely difficult to get that information. So, for that, the details of the story are amazing. But, I think those very same content providers also may be hindering the book. I think we have a man convicted of a crime who wants to be free. Perhaps is exploring appeals. I have no idea. But he's still claiming his innocence against overwhelming evidence. Then, another content provider for the book is his mom, who I'm sure would also love to have her son be released. So I feel like we're being fed a filtered "truth" from the convicted Wes Moore and family. Such as convicted Wes Moore's mom dumping all of his drugs down the toilet, yet Wes had found pot in his mom's closet. Would she actually have dumped pot down the toilet or set that aside? Why the hypocrisy of throwing out drugs when also okay with using some? I also feel like she would have known that flushing the drugs could have put him in a serious situation in regards to owing money to dealers who may not have peacefully resolved the debt. This who scene didn't feel true to me. Perhaps I just needed more internal perspective from mom.
We are also left with the impression that his mom assumed he was guilty, given her behavior while he and his brother were on the run, yet there is no statement about that from his mom in the book. Or even proclaiming his innocence. Maybe it's that silence that is the most telling. Overall, the book was good, but I feel like it could have been so much more. I feel like we are left with an unresolved feeling.
I wish convicted Wes could have admitted his wrongdoings, describing and explaining his actions while on the run.
The celebrated Wes Moore lists some of his accomplishments at the end of the book, but there is almost a feeling of embarrassment in regards to celebrating his success. As if he is overwhelmed by survivor's guilt. It was probably hard to say, okay, this guy is spending the rest of his life in prison, but let's now look at what I've accomplished. Perhaps this could have been best accomplished by quoting his mom. (Mom's love to brag! :)
I feel like there was a lot of story left on the table, and what was not said in some ways feels heavier and more significant.