Men We Reaped: A Memoir
'...And then we heard the rain falling, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to get the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.' Harriet Tubman In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth--and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own. Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue high education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity.
A trenchant memoir of rural poverty and the lingering strains of racism in America's Deep South by the National Book Award-winning author of Salvage the Bones
An assured yet scarifying memoir by young, supremely gifted novelist [Jesmyn] Ward... With more gumption than many, Ward battled not only the indifferent odds of rural poverty, but also the endless racism of her classmates... A modern rejoinder to Black Like Me, Beloved and other stories of struggle and redemption - beautifully written, if sometimes too sad to bear Kirkus Reviews Jesmyn Ward is an alchemist. She transmutes pain and loss into gold. Men We Reaped illustrates hardships but thankfully, vitally, it's just as clear about the humor, the intelligence, the tenderness, the brilliance of the folks in DeLisle, Mississippi. A community that's usually wiped off the literary map can't be erased when its in a book this good Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver There's something of Faulkner to Ward's grand diction Observer Men We Reaped is a fiercely felt meditation on the value of life that at once reminds us of its infinite worth and indicts us - as a society - for our selective, casual complicity in devaluing it. Ward's account of these losses is founded in a compelling emotional honesty, and graced with moments of stark poetry Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl Salvage the Bones has the aura of a classic about it Washington Post
Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has been a Stegner Fellow at Stanford and a Grisham Visiting Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is currently an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction.