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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward, read by January LaVoy.

"And then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood falling; and when we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped." (Harriet Tubman)

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.

©2013 Jesmyn Ward (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"[A] torrential, sorrowing tribute to five young Black men [...] Ward tells their stories with tenderness and reverence; they live again in these pages.... This work of great grief and beauty renders them individual and irreplaceable." (New York Times, 50 Best Memoirs)

"Men We Reaped reaffirms Ms. Ward's substantial talent. It's an elegiac book that's rangy at the same time. She thinks back about her brother, and about her old dead friends, and about their nighttime adventures in cars. Then she declares, 'I don't ride with anyone like that anymore." (Dwight Garner, New York Times)

"Jesmyn Ward left her Gulf Coast home for education and experience, but it called her back. It called on her in most painful ways, to mourn. In Men We Reaped, Jesmyn unburies her dead, that they may live again. And through this emotional excavation, she forces us to see the problems of place and race that led these men to their early graves. Full of beauty, love, and dignity, Men We Reaped is a haunting and essential read." (Natasha Trethewey, US Poet Laureate, author of Thrall and Native Guard, winner of the Pulitizer Prize)

What listeners say about Men We Reaped

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Tough but important

Immortalizing those in her young life. I love the story; as tough as it was to read/listen to, it had to have been tougher to have experienced it.

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Vivid, Impactful and Moving

this book was very informative of the experiences of those who are lower income, Southern based, and/or black. it was very intriguing, especially for an audio book. almost felt like I was watching a movie.