Published by Bloomsbury USA on 9/17/2013
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Over the course of five years Jesmyn Ward, author of the National Book Award winning novel Salvage the Bones, watched as suicide, drugs, car accidents and poverty took five men from her life. Through the pages of Men We Reaped, Ward honors their memory while examining the economic and social factors continuously causing damage to her community.
The heartbreaking deaths of Ward’s cousins, friends and younger brother are told between her recollections of growing up poor in DeLise, Mississippi. Though she willingly shares their flaws, Ward is able to make the vibrancy of each man and the impact he had on her life shine from every page. In the woven connections between her childhood, community and the circumstances of death, Ward carefully considers the impact of racism and poverty on black men in the South.
“The land that the community park is built on, I recently learned, is designated to be used as burial sites so the graveyard can expand as we die; one day our graves will swallow up our playground. Where we live becomes where we sleep. Could anything we do make that accretion of graves a little slower? Our waking moments a little longer? The grief we bear, along with all the other burdens of our lives, all our other loses, sinks us, until we find ourselves in a red, sandy grave. In the end, our lives are our deaths.”
Rich with history, filled with thoughtful questions and beautifully written, Men We Reaped is a memoir that should be widely read and carefully considered.