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How We Fight For Our Lives

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  4,394 ratings  ·  674 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…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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 ·  4,394 ratings  ·  674 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 My
Nenia ⚡ Aspiring Evil Overlord ⚡ Campbell

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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
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
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
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 ...more
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
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
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.
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
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!
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 &
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.
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.
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 genius of him to use his sex scenes to talk about 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 experiences ...more
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Saeed Jones’ memoir is beautiful in its honesty and raw pain you can almost feel. It’s an intense, brutal, loving and heartbreaking rollercoaster ride of a book. He takes us on his journey as he grows into himself and discovers what it means to be a black man, a gay man and a gay black man (in the south, no less). You feel the hollowness as he talks about having to hide who he was. But among the pain in this book, you also feel the interminable love of a son for his mother.

His writing is
Rosa Kwak
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
beautiful, heart wrenching, and hopeful .

memoirs are such a vulnerable invitation to one’s life and i’m so utterly grateful that saeed jones decided to write this. i couldn’t put this book down because it demands your attention in ways that not a lot of memoirs have the power to do so.

how to write about pain and heartbreak in a way that confronts the absolute confusion that occurs when we are at our most overwhelmed.

grab your tissues and make sure your make-up is waterproof, because saeed
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing

"Boys like us never really got away, it seemed. We just bought ourselves time. A few more gasps of air, a few more poems, a few more years. History hurt more than any weapon inflicted on us. It hit back harder than any weapon we could wield, any weapon we could ourselves turn into."

For memoir-lovers 2019 has been a fantastic year - as@readrunsea also pointed out today in her review of Saeed Jones' How We Fight For Our Lives. Jones memoirspecifically can be positioned within a pile of
Jessica Sullivan
This is a gorgeous memoir about growing up gay and black in the south, about knowing that the odds are against you and trying to carve a space for yourself in a world where “being a black gay boy is a death wish.”

For Saeed Jones, forging his identity was about more than just coming out, it was about living authentically in all the many ways—and about the painful journey of finding out what that even meant.

Jones’ life takes him from Texas, where as a young teenager he discovered his sexuality, to
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
What an insight into growing up gay and black, with a Christian grandmother and a Buddhist mother. I understand why Saeed Jones titled his memoir How We Fight For Our Lives and it drives home the something that I tuned into in a book I read yesterday called From Lukov with Love, and that is that sometimes we lose "who we are" in order to satisfy others and who they want us to be.

I felt for Saeed as a young black man and what he might have experienced in parts of the south, but to add being gay
This is both a love letter to a mother and a coming of age memoir. I was a touch shocked when it ended because I was so consumed by his story that I didn't even notice I was not holding many more pages. Jones is immediately charismatic on the page, speaking about books that failed to draw him in (Toni Morrison, Alice Walker...) When he finds Mr. James Baldwin, he is finally interested and fears this might be the type of book his mom should not see him reading. (I found this sort of hilarious ...more
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Jones has written a moving and honest work here which has won the 2019 Kirkus Prize for nonfiction, but I don't think it brought enough new material to the table to warrant a more than average distinction. Memoirs seem to be popular at present and this year I have read read several that vary little in form or content. In this case I am choosing not to round up simply because the book is an award winner.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This book is fantastic. There are so many moments of pure genius and poetry, and lines I will never forget. Jones really captures what it feels like to not feel present in yourself and the life you are living. It is beautifully both specific and universal.
Taylor Givens
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Whew. Saeed Jones is a powerhouse. The truth here gave me goosebumps from the first page to the last. The last words of this book are “our Mother’s are why we are here” and years from now when I look over all the books I’ve read, I know I’m going to remember that. ...more
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book made me feel so many different kinds of things. I have no words. It's just phenomenal.
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arcs
How We Fight For Our Lives is a “coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power.” Jones dissects his life for readers as he dives deep into his youth, his relationships with his mother and grandmother, and growing up in a culture that leaves little to no room for him to be true to himself.

This memoir is raw, emotional, and powerful. I’m so few pages, Jones bares is soul as he tells the story of his younger self’s fight for his place in the world while trying understand
Judy Robbins
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An astonishingly beautiful memoir. Jones lets us into the deepest parts of his life with such beauty and thoughtfulness and light. This book is a gift, and I admire the courage it must have taken to not only write this, but to put it into the world.
Bonnie Brody
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Saeed Jones has written a poignant and very personal memoir about being a gay black man. He records his difficulty coming out to his mother and the personal anxieties that plagued him while growing up. "Just as some cultures have hundred words for 'snow', there should be a hundred words in our language for all the ways a black boy can lay awake at night".

The author wins a scholarship to a Kentucky State University to b on their debate team. Once at college, he becomes very sexually active with
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“A friend told me once that after her father died, she cried so intensely, a blood vessel in one of her eyes burst. It had seemed like an impossible marvel when she told me at the time, but now I knew. Tears don’t always just fall; sometimes they rip through you, like storm painted gusts instead of mere raindrops.”

How we fight for our lives by Saeed Jones is hard for me to review, it was beautiful, wonderful, poetic, informative, and heartbreaking. The story is a love letter from Jones to
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A coming-of-age memoir about an African American boy coming to terms with being gay. Saeed grew up in the south fighting to understand his identity.

How We Fight For Our Lives is a captivating read; you'll read about the up's and downs, the mental anguish, and the acceptance of who Saeed was and is now. The words are raw and flow beautifully; they really make you think about how we Americans treat each other and how being different is not so easily accepted. This memoir will stay with me for a
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Saeed Jones’ debut poetry collection Prelude To Bruise (Coffee House Press) was the winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award For Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award and a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award. The book was also a finalist for 2015 awards from the Lambda Literary and the Publishing Triangle. His poetry and essays have ...more
“Tears don't always just fall; sometimes they rip through you, like storm-painted gusts instead of mere raindrops.” 4 likes
“I made myself a promise: Even if it meant becoming a stranger to my loved ones, even if it meant keeping secrets, I would have a life of my own.” 3 likes
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