Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Whenever Jenny and I hear folks saying "I cannot even imagine that ..." we as readers know that actually you can begin to understand almost anything, especially if an amazing storyteller takes you by the hand along her way. Last winter I began to sort of understand cannabalism after reading Nathanial Philbrick's "In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex." You guys, I'm not kidding—Philbrick is so good he took me there. So, the New York Times published their 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years,* and that got me and Jen noodling: Should we do a Morning Memoir book club, but only with Manageable-in-Length Memoirs (meaning with one exception only 200-ish pages), all by women from diverse backgrounds written over the last five decades?
We said "OK!" to each other and now we can't wait to imagine lives different from our own in some ways, but looking for connection and common ground at every turn. Come on along and imagine with us.
*The New York Times’s book critics select the most outstanding memoirs published since 1969.
In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young 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 higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity. A brutal world rendered beautifully, Jesmyn Ward’s memoir will sit comfortably alongside Edwidge Danticat’s Brother, I'm Dying, Tobias Wolff's This Boy’s Life, and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
Please RSVP as we will make treats, and please call to order these paperbook books from your old buddy, Prairie Path Books!
Call the store to say you can come, (630) 765-7455!