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Men We Reaped

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4.25  ·  Rating details ·  15,885 ratings  ·  2,036 reviews
'...And then we heard the rain falling, and that was the drops of blood falling; and when we came to get the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.' Harriet Tubman

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five 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
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 17th 2013 by Bloomsbury USA
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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 ·  15,885 ratings  ·  2,036 reviews


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Cindy
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This started as a 4 star, but the last part of the book really ramped up and moved me to tears. Ward writes beautifully and you can feel her grief pour through the pages. She does a great job at personalizing the statistics of young black men in poverty and honoring their lives.
Moira Russell
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous and heartrending. One of the best-written books I've read in a long, long time.


(ETA I just told Kris: "That is one holy shit gorgeous book, and at the same time I don't think I've ever read a book which showed so unrelentingly what it's like to live in the modern apartheid of US racism. It reminded me of James Baldwin and "Araby." Wow. Give her a prize. Give her all the prizes. Shit, give her Jonathan Franzen's house while we're at it.")
Carol
Wards writing has moments of luminescence too many to count. But Men We Reaped is breathtakingly full of despair. You can listen to six hours of Lightnin Hopkins or read this memoir. Either way, if youre listening closely, youll need a bottle of your favorite beverage and a big box of tissues to see your way to the end. ...more
Roxane
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a book about grief, about grief that is unending and wide reaching. It's also a memoir about rural poverty and race, and the all too inevitable conclusions to the lives of five young men in Ward's life. The prose is bursting with pain and beauty and truth. This is a book everyone should read. Where it falls short is that it doesn't do enough to rise above the grief. Ward only briefly addresses the issues of race and poverty and how they indelibly shape too many lives, particularly in the ...more
Elyse  Walters
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book last night - during the dark hours - after watching the Democratic Convention. I absolutely loved the unity, the optimism, and hope.
.....which inspired to read Jesmyn Wards memoir.

Im certain I read Men We Reaped differently than I might have even a year ago.

Reap Definition:
....receive a ( reward or benefit) as a consequence of ones own or other peoples actions.

This year is changing me - hopefully for the better. The time is now - to keep The Black Lives Matter movement
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Michael
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
Meditative and moving, Jesmyn Ward's memoir places personal tragedy against the backdrop of systemic racism and poverty. Ward alternates between recounting her childhood in rural Mississippi and sketching biographies of five young Black men she intimately knew, all who died within the span of four years. Each chapter consists of a series of loosely connected vignettes, written in plain but powerful prose. The book's associative structure and accessible language would make it a swift read, were ...more
Trish
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I wonder now if I will ever see the title of a new book by Jesmyn Ward that does not thrill me at the same time it fills me with trepidation. Wards talent is such that we read what she writes even when we do not want to. Her despair and distress cuts like a blade. She wants it to hurt. So that we know. And we do, now. Has there ever been anyone who could tell this story in this way?
I never knew Demond when he was younger. I came to know him as an adult, when he was old enough to have sharp
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Reggie
Oct 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-favorites
I'm predicting Jesmyn Ward will be the next Black American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Her body of work is awesome, and I suspect it will remain that way as she publishes more work.

Fleshed out thoughts to come.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
After discussing Sing Unburied Sing with a group, some seemed to have more insight after reading Jesmyn Ward's memoir and made me want to read it too. It isn't easy going - chapters alternate between her life and the stories of five men in her family/community that died within a period of five years. Highly recommended especially as a companion to her fiction, but really for anyone interested in how a person can share difficult personal stories in an honest way.

This is memoir 9 of my Nonfiction
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Eliza
Nov 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoir
11/17/13: Another memoir? Too bad, as the Bhutan one is tough to follow. Still, even on its own, MWR is weak and inarticulate. I think Ward's memoir has two major problems. First, she has not fully processed her grief and anger about the deaths, in a relatively short span of time, of five of her relatives and friends--all young black men in the South. And second, she seems to be trying to conflate that very personal, intimate (and difficult) story with a much larger tirade against the tragedy ...more
Celeste Ng
Sep 18, 2013 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
Searing and heartbreaking. I literally picked this book up off the coffee table to carry it upstairs before bed and ended up reading the entire thing standing up there in the living room.
Imani406
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Finished this book a few days ago & honestly cant stop thinking about it. This memoir is so important, one of the most important pieces of nonfiction Ive read to date. Ward shun a light on the ills and racists attitudes towards black boys & men in America, using the tragic stories of friends & family who have died b/c of institutional racism. The construction of the memoir is genius, Ward shared the stories of her friends, cousin and brother while intertwining her own story and ...more
Diane S ☔
Aug 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Ward and her family lived for generations in De Lisle. Mississippi. When she was growing up, after having assumed responsibility for her younger siblings, she only wanted to escape. She manages this when she attend college, but her brother was not so lucky. Her hometown. with its lack of educational opportunities, subsequent poverty would cost many their lives. From 2000-2004, she would find herself reeling from 5 deaths, the first her brother from a drunk driver, and then friends would follow. ...more
Kathleen
Hello. We are here. Listen.

In four years Jesmyn Ward lost five young men close to her to tragic deaths. The oldest was 32, the youngest 19, and they were beautiful, troubled, flawed and gifted. This is not an unusual story in communities experiencing poverty and racism, and when you multiply her experience out to all of these people, the weight of the loss is suffocating. Bravo to Ward for making us feel this. This book is like a Shakespearean tragedy for our times. It must have taken tremendous
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Book Riot Community
This book came out a few years ago but it feels like a perfect commentary on recent events and #BlackLivesMatter. Everyone (including Amanda, who listed this as her April 2016 pick) told me this book was beautiful and gutting but I still wasnt prepared for Wards incredible memoir. Id planned to read for just a half hour or so and found myself unable to break away from her story of grief and racism, the south and home, growing up and navigating the world as a black, poor or working class, ...more
Vanessa
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
If there ever was a book that reminded you the preciousness of every individual life this is it.

This beautifully haunting and tender memoir of sorts serves to highlight the devastation of lives lost too soon one of them being the authors younger brother.

The author shares her intimate and personal stories and describes the plight that these young men face the unfairness of a system that doesnt value their lives, the lives of these young black men. These men for one reason or another dying far
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Alice Lippart
Raw, honest and intensely personal. Very, very good.
Wilhelmina Jenkins
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Heart-wrenching, especially since the week that I read it is one in which the perilousness of the lives of young black men is the topic of so much national conversation. Undoubtedly the conversation will die down and some other topic will take its place, but this book stands as testimony to the loss to family and community of these young lives. Ward writes about 5 young black men, family and friends, who died within a few short years in her small, impoverished community for reasons that vary but ...more
Snotchocheez
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I knew after reading the intensely personal, haunting (and a little over-exuberant) National Book Award winner Salvage the Bones about the months leading up to Katrina's landfall in rural Mississippi, Ms. Ward did not exorcise all the demons she needed to. There was a larger story-behind-the-story that was clamoring to be told.

If ever there was a book that could possibly put me in the shoes of someone growing up poor and Black, with no hope to escape the poverty and violence seemingly endemic to
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Ann
Oct 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found SALVAGE THE BONES painful to read, and hoped some of the worst parts of those characters' lives were pure fiction. Now, having read Ward's devastating memoir, MEN WE REAPED, I realize how much truth her earlier National Book Award-winning novel told.

Ward's life is laid open like a wound in these pages, honest and unadulterated. She doesn't try to impress us with who she is, what she has done, what happened to the people (especially the men) in her life. Ward writes with deep love and
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Caitlin
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Men We Reaped is one of the rare non-fiction books that seems destined to be a literary classic. National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward intertwines the story of her life growing up poor and Black in rural coastal Mississippi with the lives of five young men including her brother who died within a two year span soon after she finished college. Ward writes with fire and passion as she captures the day-to-day and systemic injustices that she and her family faced and the struggles they went ...more
Riva Sciuto
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Oh my God, I sobbed my way through this from the first page to the last. In this devastating memoir, Jesmyn Ward succeeds in bringing life to the fallen, meaning to the pain, and beauty to the suffering. It is a reflection of the five men she and her small Mississippi community lost one of whom was her brother through accidents, suicide, murder, and drug addiction. The book's title comes from the haunting words of Harriet Tubman: "...and then we heard the rain falling and that was the blood ...more
Brandice
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Jesmyn Ward's memoir, Men We Reaped, is depressing yet well-written. It is a story of loss, mourning, hardship, and numerous calls (or perhaps the perpetual call) Home, again and again.

Ward and her family faced many struggles, most of which were not self-induced, although her father constantly made poor decisions. Her mother was resilient, enduring immense sacrifices to keep the family afloat, and surviving.

Each of the stories about the men Ward shared were depressing. Some were more engaging
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CaShawn
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So damn beautiful. All the sadness, all the desolation, all the poverty and all the loss and STILL, Ms.Ward managed to make it so beautiful it hurt.
Sarah Weathersby
The title comes from a quote by Harriet Tubman, "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."

Jesmyn Ward is becoming one of my favorite authors. This memoir was painful to read, but held together by her beautiful prose.

She tells the story of lost young men, her cousins and brother, growing up poor, black and male in Mississippi. Mississippi of Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit," Mississippi of Nina Simone's
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Michelle
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Beautiful writing but I often felt that she skipped some practical parts. It's a memoir that works in reverse order. The chapter alternate between her childhood and the reverse chronological order of deaths of young black men she knew, culminating with the death of her only brother. This builds the dawning horror of the deaths.

She details the difficulty of growing up poor and black in rural Mississippi. I was a bit disappointed that she didn't bring in in facts about poverty and racism and death
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Gayle Pritchard
Mar 14, 2020 rated it liked it
New York Magazine named Men We Reaped one of the Best Books of the Century. Although I look forward to trying another of her best-selling books, I just can't agree with their assessment on this one.
I have been seriously trying to diversify my reading list, adding James Baldwin, more Alice Walker, Laurie Jean Cannady, Ivelesse Rodriguez, Tyrese Coleman, Patrico Gopo and Machael Ondaatje, among others, to my stack of books. I have read Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, still the standards by which
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Liz Janet
Because we trusted nothing, we endeavored to protect ourselves, boys becoming misogynistic and violent, girls turning duplicitous, all of us hopeless.
This is literally a regular memoir with a chronologically backwards biography of five men.

This memoir tries to link the death of men in Jesmyn Ward's life to the injustices done to those that are underprivileged. And even though I do not feel that it achieved it, it is still an incredible read that introduces us to identity and home, and how that
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Wyndy
"When I was born, I weighed two pounds and four ounces, and the doctors told my parents I would die."

Jesmyn Ward did not die that day in DeLisle, Mississippi. She went on to become a two-time National Book Award-winning author and associate professor at Tulane University. But over the course of five short years, when Ward was in her 20's, five men close to her did die. One of those men was her brother. This is her homage to those five men, her extensive family, and her community: To say this is
...more
Nohemi
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A powerful memoir about growing up Black and poor in the South. About self-esteem, racism, death, grief, and family.
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Read Women: Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward 17 34 Nov 17, 2019 12:28PM  
Play Book Tag: Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward - 5 stars 7 20 Sep 30, 2019 07:01AM  
Literary Fiction ...: Buddy Read: Men We Reaped 21 65 Aug 28, 2019 07:30PM  
Around the Year i...: Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward 1 17 Mar 26, 2016 04:31PM  
Literary Fiction ...: 'Men We Reaped' wins 2014 Heartland Prize for Nonfiction 5 52 Nov 28, 2015 08:31AM  

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Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.

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“I think my love for books sprang from my need to escape the world I was born into, to slide into another where words were straightforward and honest, where there was clearly delineated good and evil, where I found girls who were strong and smart and creative and foolish enough to fight dragons, to run away from home to live in museums, to become child spies, to make new friends and build secret gardens.” 74 likes
“We tried to outpace the thing that chased us, that said: You are nothing. We tried to ignore it, but sometimes we caught ourselves repeating what history said, mumbling along, brainwashed: I am nothing. We drank too much, smoked too much, were abusive to ourselves, to each other. We were bewildered. There is a great darkness bearing down on our lives, and no one acknowledges it.” 36 likes
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