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How We Fight For Our Lives

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  447 ratings  ·  123 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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Average rating 4.43  · 
Rating details
 ·  447 ratings  ·  123 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
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 because the vignettes
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 tears Saee
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.
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
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 Si
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 disc
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.
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 a
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 u
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 l
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I met Saeed this morning at an ALA panel on memoirs. He and the other panelists had me tearing up. I skipped an afternoon session to read his book and just finished it before bed. Again I am in tears.

His writing is as easy to read as he is quick to smile. I am so glad I got to see him laughing and smiling in person after reading his book. His emotions are so palpable as you read each of the four acts. It's not just his story. It is that of his mother as well. What an incredible woman
Sep 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Poets writing prose forever, please! Since reading his poetry collection, Prelude to Bruise, I've been waiting for more writing from Saeed Jones and was so happy to get an ARC of his memoir. This is an honest, powerfully written account of his experience growing up in north Texas (my hood!) as a gay, Black man. It's a letter to his mother, which reminds me of a few other awesome recent releases (Kiese Laymon's Heavy and Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous) that intersects with his refl ...more
Oct 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Searing antidote to the myth of flawlessness. The messiness of life before AND after coming out, of grief, of the ways bodies ache for other bodies, of family that loves each other and fails each other and learns ways to keep loving despite this. I sighed a lot while reading, mostly to air out the heavy emotions this book stirred in me.
4.5 stars. Wow! Saeed Jones's writing is just impeccable. Never cold or distant, it is like you are reading his heart. There is anger in this book but so much love, too. I feel like I've gained a new window and a new perspective, always a wonderful feeling when you put down a book. Highly recommended. I received an ARC from the publisher via a Goodreads giveaway and an honest review was requested.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was so good, I was shaking by the time I finished this book.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
More like 4.5. This is one of the most beautifully written memoirs I've had a chance to read. Tight, evocative, rhapsodic, Jones' recollections of moments, people, emotions punctuates so much deeper upon reading (and re-reading). This book is beautiful sentences *and* thoughtful introspection. It's a book to savor and to learn from. If you've read PRELUDE TO A BRUISE than you already know how economic and lovely Jones can weave a story but also relay a truth.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a quick read. The chapters are short and deceivingly "breezy." Each, however, has both poetic elements and an emotional punch. He is raw, unflinching and candid. He is thoughtful, his introspection unfiltered and deep. I would say that the effect has some disconcerting, reverberating quality. After reading a chapter, I would think, "Oh that was cute or intense." And it seemed brief for its impact, strangely brief. But the "punch" would linger....long after I set the book down.

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 f
The most powerful part of this short memoir is the moment in which Saeed’s grandmother forces young Saeed to be "saved" by having a minster invoke pain and misery upon his non-present Buddhist mother. The grandmother sacrifices her own daughter for the salvation/conversion of her grandchild. For the rest of the book I prayed that Saeed’s mother would not come to misfortune or ill health.

This, ultimately, is the narrative arc of this book: A boy comes into his own on the abandoned, exhausted, ra
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.

4.5. It's pretty rare for me to have books stick with me longer than the final page. Even if I loved something, it's just not how I'm built as a reader. But I've thought about Saeed Jones' short memoir so often since I finished a few weeks ago. His gorgeous writing reflects his training as a poet who can use language as a weapon. While the graphic descriptions of sex weren't my favorite, I don't know that he could have made a diffe
Aug 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
This memoir recounts the coming of age of an African American youth in the 1990s. The writer, Jones, has an evangelical grandmother who rejects his sexuality, his being, and a Buddhist mother who loves him but at the same time has trouble communicating with him. His memoir covers adolescence into graduate school; these are years of self-discovery, intellectual development, and sexual experimentation as he recognizes his homosexuality and wonders if others will understand him. Jones's ecstatic discover ...more
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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This book....WOW!! Heartbreaking, Queer, Poetic, Intimate and Raw. Saeed Jones has written a beautiful coming-of-age memoir about queerness, love, race and grief.
He shares about being a young, gay black boy, about becoming a openly gay man, about sex and partners and blackness and about his mother and grandmother.
This book is so touching. I haven't read a memoir quite like this before. A love letter to all gay, black boys raised by single moth
Wow. Not a word wasted, not a word out of place. A beautiful, spare, rich memoir about being black and gay and how little space is given to those men as they grow from childhood to adulthood. Internalized self-loathing is so common among these pages that I can’t even imagine the work Saeed must have done to be able to bare those emotions for the reader. The book is also a love letter to his late mother, those last few chapters cut me to the quick. A must-read, out this October.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book through the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a honest review.

This is a heart-wrenching and well written book. Saeed Jones opens himself on the page and shares his experience as a Black, gay man. This book is a surprisingly short read and is hard to put down. Sharing sad stories and life lessons this is a powerful read.

Jones' writing is electric and painful and an incredible read.
Linda Quinn
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I honestly don't know what to say about this beautifully written, moving memoir. Saeed Jones shares memories of his childhood and formative years that made my heart just hurt for him. From his earliest memory of being called a "fag" to his feelings of shame and perceived rejection from his grandmother he is brutally honest about his fear and anger in his life. His realization in high school that "being black can get you killed. Being gay can get you killed. Being a black gay boy is a death wish, ...more
Lauren Archer
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
How We Fight For Our Lives is a slim memoir by the poet Saeed Jones. The prose alone is worth reading. This memoir is about Jones as a African American man coming out in the South and all it’s implications.

For my full review, visit my blog at:

Thank you NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for an Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review.
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.
Shirley Freeman
Whew - this is a beautifully written but brutally honest memoir about growing up and finding oneself as a gay black man in the southern United States. I just kept thinking, "I sure hope it's easier today for a young, gay black person to find love and quality relationships than it was for Saeed." Thankfully, he had a beautiful mother whose sacrifice gave him the opportunity to thrive.
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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 ap ...more
“A man might still decide that when he looks at you, all he sees is a nigger, a faggot, or both.” 0 likes
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