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How We Fight For Our Lives

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  16,539 ratings  ·  2,114 reviews
From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power.

“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’ ”

Hardcover, 192 pages
Published October 8th 2019 by Simon and Schuster
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Scott Munden "Explicit scenes between gay men." Really? What a nonsense response. We are all entitled to our opinions, but this one crosses the border between opin…more"Explicit scenes between gay men." Really? What a nonsense response. We are all entitled to our opinions, but this one crosses the border between opinion and censorship.

There should be no age restriction for this story. Its primary narrative is about a son's relationship with his single mother. It's beautiful and well-told. And, yes, the narrator also happens to be gay and part of the story is about a young boy/man (the narrator) discovering what it means to be gay and African American in a racist and homophobic world.

To reduce a beautifully written novel to "Explicit scenes between gay men" is to miss the point entirely and strikes me as old-fashioned homophobia. Shame.(less)

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 ·  16,539 ratings  ·  2,114 reviews

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Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In his astonishing, unparalleled memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones writes of making his body into a weapon, a fierce thing that can cut. In these pages, Jones also makes language into a fierce, cutting weapon. How We Fight For Our Lives is a coming of age story, it is a love letter to a black single mother, it is an indictment of our culture that creates so little space for gay men to learn how to be who they truly are. Most of all, this memoir is a rhapsody in the truest sense of ...more
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure how to rate this book.  The author writes beautifully and the second part of the book is pretty much a song of love and gratitude towards his mother.  5 stars for the second part.

The first part?  Well.! What the heck is it with some of these coming out memoirs by gay men that have to tell you about all the dick they've had???  As a lesbian, I definitely do not enjoy hearing about dick.  This book was similar to I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: author-is-nice, 2019
I didn’t know what to expect going into this. I mostly know Saeed Jones from his Twitter presence, where he is known as @theferocity, and is very much living up to that title. He’s hilarious and deals out some incredibly sharp commentary when necessary. He’s also known for this reaction pic, which in many cases says more than any biting retort ever could:


But on the rare occasion I venture off of twitter dot com, it’s important to remember that (most) of the people on that site are actual human b
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest

HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is such a great memoir. It's everything a "good" memoir should be-- sensual, moving, thoughtful, provoking, erotic, intense, and unique-- but it also opens up many meaningful discussions and dialogues about what it means to be black, what it means to be gay, what it means to be both, and how it feels to be part of a group that is singled out, even from within members of each disparate community (hence the ever-
Jun 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
feeding my memoir addiction

update: holy moley. this was intense and excellent. won't be reviewing beyond that because this is so, so personal.


reading all books with LGBTQ+ rep for pride this month!

book 1: the gravity of us
book 2: the great american whatever
book 3: wild beauty
book 4: the affair of the mysterious letter
book 5: how we fight for our lives
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Tell me more, please!

I hardly ever say this, but this book was too short--I wanted more!

Saeed Jones is a fantastic storyteller, even when he is telling stories that are heartbreaking and difficult to read. His vignettes about finding his place as a young, gay black man from the South are powerful and vivid. There are age-old adages about how literature helps us understand others, and How We Fight For Our Lives is a window into experiences that are completely unlike my own.

I wanted more becaus
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
High 4 stars

How We Fight For Our Lives is a powerful short memoir. Saeed Jones is gay and black. He grew up in Texas with a single mother Buddhist convert who suffered from congenital heart disease. This memoir spans Jones’ life from ages 12 to 25. Jones gives his readers a raw taste of his life in that time span, including the rough ride he got from peers in high school and his successful but self-destructive self-reinvention as a student in at a small college in Kentucky. Jones also delves int
Paris (parisperusing)
It brings me great pain and joy to know Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives will be set upon us all. Pain for the collective loss and sorrow gay black boys have suffered, and joy in knowing that it is stories like these that will set us free.

It’s been a month since I read Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives, and I fumbled so long to put words to its visceral glamour. When I first heard of its arrival over the winter, I needed it immediately. To imagine the amount of blood, sweat, and tea
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a shor ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Saeed Jones writes about growing up black and gay in a family that preferred not to have its secrets spoken out loud. He went on to college in Kentucky which had its own challenges but it is also where he found his voice as a writer. I particularly loved the family dynamics - single mother and Buddhism in the south makes for some great moments. How Saeed is tokenized and/or overlooked for hookups aligns with what I've heard from other black men, but no less disheartening. I look forward to readi ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very, very good.

Review to come.
Madalyn (Novel Ink)
This book first came up on my radar when I heard the author interviewed on my favorite podcast last year, and it feels like my library hold for it came in at exactly the right time. How We Fight for Our Lives chronicles Saeed Jones coming of age as a Black gay man in the South in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Jones’s background in poetry is evident in the quality and flow of the writing, because this is one of my most beautifully written memoirs I’ve read in quite some time. It’s not always an easy ...more
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)
Jun 05, 2019 marked it as not-released-tbr
Shelves: contemporary
is it illegal to give a book five stars before even reading it?

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Traci at The Stacks
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is soooo good. Saeed Jones is a force. His skills as a poet is fully evident in the prose of this book. Sexuality. Humanity. Blackness. Family. Grief. It’s all in here. He is vulnerable and he is genius and just wow!
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Saeed Jone’s How We Fight For Our Lives was the queer Black memoir exploring adolescence, striving, self loathing, racism in the gay community, intimate partner violence, grief, poverty, and that quintessential imperfect profoundly complex relationship between a son and his mother that everyone needs to read. This book, read by the author himself, is so beautiful and so honest and so full of peer and also hope and also pain. It’s an elegy to so much that Jones has clearly worked to grow through ...more
George K. Ilsley
Feb 22, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay, non-fiction, memoir
Expectations are a bitch. This book was highly-praised, so already there's a high bar.

On the level of the sentence, the poetry of the prose is beyond excellent. It's beautiful, tragic, evocative, sad, and hopeful. But ultimately it is a young writer's memoir, and that is why I was a little disappointed. Are we never to move beyond self-loathing and self-sabotage? Plus, I have to say: all that Buddhist chanting does not seem to have resulted in any sort of grounded mindfulness (my own teacher, wh
Robert Sheard
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
I worried because of Jones's background in poetry that his memoir might be too abstract, too poem-like for me. But absolutely not. The prose is powerful, clean, laser-sharp in terms of imagery and theme. If anything, the fault with this book is that it's too short. The writing's so good, I just wanted more of it.

It begins as the story of a black boy in Texas (age 12 or 13), a black gay boy in Texas, and how that makes Jones feel both alone and terrified of society (and justifiably so). Then the
Oct 09, 2019 rated it liked it
So many thoughts but I’m going to keep them to myself since this is his real life.
Bill Khaemba
Jul 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Relistened to the audiobook and I am still in awe
So moved by this piece that I can't even begin to describe it... Just go read it
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wow ... I didn’t know what I was expecting from this memoir but this was so much more. It’s the story of the author’s life told by navigating through important moments of his life and the ultimate thread overall is his relationship with his beloved single mother.

You can clearly see Jones is a poet because even his prose is stunningly beautiful and evocative - literally brimming with feelings like desperation, confusion, longing, fear and grief - and listening to the audiobook in his own voice b
Darryl Suite
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This had me shook. Incredible stuff. A fantastic read.
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. What a beautiful memoir from Saeed Jones. Coming of age, coming out, relationships with family, a son and his single mother. Racism, homophobia - external and internal. Without giving away any real spoilers, I must say it was so intimate to use his sexual experiences as a platform for the horror of racism. And throughout the book his Mom shines through which makes me miss my own Mom. What a brave young man to share his experi ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: review-copies
What a truly incredible memoir! I devoured this in one sitting, couldn't put it down - couldn't turn the pages fast enough and really wanted more once I was finished. How We Fight For Our Lives is powerful, captivating, heart wrenching and also full of strength. I admire so much that these amazing humans allow us, complete strangers, to see into their world, to read their truth. This is a memoir everyone needs in their life. I highly encourage you to read this.

Thank you so so much Simon & Schust
Jamie Canaves
I read in one sitting, and woo this is one of those memoirs that will live with me forever. It’s raw and powerful and it’s out in October, and if you’re a fan of memoirs definitely have this one on your radar. He’s also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter.
Tori (InToriLex)
A wonderful exploration of what it means to learn who you are while facing the dangerousness of being black and gay. Saeed draws you in with quality prose and keeps you interested by walking you through his trauma so you can't look away. ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-bookshelf
4.5/5 I strongly recommend the audio read by the author. His passages about his mother and their relationship will bring tears.
Melania 🍒
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

- Book Riots 2020 Read Harder Challenge -11.Read a debut novel by a queer author -

I’m very happy books like this one exist. There should be more of them out there and more well known. It’s not even that relevant that I, personally, haven’t loved it as much as maybe I was expecting. I think I wasn’t able to relate to everything in here, but I really loved the son-mother relationship. And everything about that part of his life was very interesting and touching for me to read about.
But then
Rachel León
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm trying to conjure words to describe this INCREDIBLE book... all I want to say is READ IT over and over as my review. Is that a review?
That's my review.
Wow! This book is heavy and beautiful. A memoir written by a poet might be my new favourite thing!!! Also great on audio, narrated by the author himself!
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, glbt, race
Since Saeed survived college, it is not a spoiler to be glad he is still with us today. This honest and open memoir paints a young gay black man who "wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life" as Thoreau would say. But real life has lots of obstacles and pitfalls.

Saeed takes us from his early days, through high school, through college, and into his recent early years of work and writing. The book moves quickly. There is just enough reflection to see the thoughts and afterthoughts,
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Saeed Jones is the author of the memoir How We Fight for Our Lives, winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, the 2020 Stonewall Book Award/Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award, and a 2020 Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Aw ...more

Articles featuring this book

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
62 likes · 19 comments
“People don’t just happen. We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The “I” it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, “I am no longer yours.” My grandmother and I, without knowing it, were faithfully following a script that had already been written for us. A woman raises a boy into a man, loving him so intensely that her commitment finally repulses him.” 19 likes
“Just as some cultures have a hundred words for 'snow,' there should be a hundred words in our language for all the ways a black boy can lie awake at night.” 18 likes
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