Men We Reaped
After her 2011 National Book Award-winning novel Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward turns to memoir to understand the seemingly unrelated recent deaths of five young men from her close-knit Mississippi community. The result is a vivid and searing look at the legacy of racism in America by a writer with exceptional narrative gifts.
Starting with her own return to DeLisle in the summer of 2004, Ward tells each man's story in chapters woven into her larger family narrative. We share her grief at the loss of these young men on the margins whose lives society does not value, and understand why she loved each of them--Rog, Demond, CJ, Ronald and, finally, her brother, Joshua, killed by a drunk driver.
Men We Reaped is a stunning look at racism, the people it marginalizes and how we are all implicated. Ward ultimately sees these deaths as the consequence of racism so ingrained it is almost unremarkable. When poverty affects African-Americans in disproportionate measure and options become nonexistent, depression, recklessness and the abuse of drugs and alcohol can seem reasonable responses; when there is no margin for error, any risk is magnified. It is a testament to Ward's gifts as a writer that she makes this journey our own. --Jeanette Zwart, freelance writer and reviewer