Men We Reaped: A Memoir
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Universally praised, Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped confirmed her ascendancy as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, her Southern requiem securing its place on bestseller and best books of the year lists, with honors and awards pouring in from around the country.
Jesmyn's memoir shines a light on the community she comes from, in the small town of DeLisle, Mississippi, a place of quiet beauty and fierce attachment. Here, in the space of four years, she lost five young men dear to her, including her beloved brother-lost to drugs, accidents, murder, and suicide. Their deaths were seemingly unconnected, yet their lives had been connected, by identity and place, and as Jesmyn dealt with these losses, she came to a staggering truth: These young men died because of who they were and the place they were from, because certain disadvantages breed a certain kind of bad luck. Because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle. The agonizing reality commanded Jesmyn to write, at last, their true stories and her own.
Men We Reaped opens up a parallel universe, yet it points to problems whose roots are woven into the soil under all our feet. This indispensable American memoir is destined to become a classic.
girlfriend’s twin slept. I wondered about those rooms often, wondered if they were as dark as the rooms in the front, if they seemed as sealed, as insular, and I imagined them stretching off into a great distance, room after room, each one more cavelike than its predecessor, each holding what would later become treasure: a picture of Demond grinning and holding his child, his Enyce fits, his Timberland boots, still smelling faintly of the sweat of his feet. I never imagined people in those rooms
making me dizzy and tingly, and I liked the sensation, but not enough to smoke one again, I thought. It was making my throat burn. The night pulsed with bugs; they gave low, staccato ticks. I smiled at Demond, at all of them. There was no place I wanted to be more than that yard, leaning on that car, interior lights flashing on and off, a lone streetlight a block away leaving us wide-eyed, struggling to see each other in the dark. Demond ducked his head into the window of a car where two of my
and that he thought we might explore it together. “No,” I said. “Let’s go.” I yanked Nerissa to walk. “Hold on,” I told Charine, and she tightened her legs around my waist, locking them at the heels. I pushed branches out of the way, began shouldering through the underbrush back to the trail. Josh stood behind us, still at the mouth of that hole. “Come on!” I said. He hesitated, then followed. When we reached the trail, I began trotting, Charine bouncing up and down on my back, laughing.
Pat, Darrell, Darren, Jon-Jon, Ton-Loc, Tasha, Oscar, B. J., Marcus, L. C., Rem, and Moody-Boy (many of whom told me their stories and helped me write this book). I’d like to thank my friends and cousins who comforted me when writing was almost unbearable: Mark Dedeaux, Aldon Dedeaux, and Jillian Dedeaux. There were days where I could not write another word without you telling me: It will be all right. B. Miller for knowing exactly when I need to laugh so I won’t cry. My father for telling me
had died when he was twenty-eight of a heart attack, so Mrs. P. was the sole caregiver, which meant that Rog, like most of us who grew up without fathers, spent a lot of time with his two older sisters or other kids his age, unsupervised, especially in the summer. One Fourth of July, he and his cousins twisted firecrackers together in a sulfurous bunch, put the firecrackers in mailboxes, and lit them. The mailboxes exploded. Someone called the police. When the police arrived, they told the kids