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Men we reaped : a memoir af Jesmyn Ward

Men we reaped : a memoir (original 2013; udgave 2014)

af Jesmyn Ward

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
8364220,027 (4.25)128
A memoir that examines rural poverty and the lingering strains of racism in the South by the author of Salvage the bones.
Titel:Men we reaped : a memoir
Forfattere:Jesmyn Ward
Info:[Place of publication not identified] : Bloomsbury, 2014.
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek

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Men We Reaped af Jesmyn Ward (2013)


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Author Jesmyn Ward lost five young men, including her brother, within five years. In an effort to deal with her unimaginable grief, she wrote a memoir about her own life growing up Black and poor in Mississippi, as well as brief biographies of each man and his tragic death.

As I read this, I periodically thought of that adage stating that to be a writer, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed” (I’m going to attribute this to Walter “Red” Smith, citing Quote Investigator). Ms. Ward’s pain and grief comes through in these pages almost viscerally.

Growing up poor is hard enough. But when you’re Black and poor, especially in the American South, especially in Mississippi, the cards are truly stacked against you. You can’t expect mercy from a court system that seems to believe your very existence is a crime. You can’t expect help from your White neighbors, who view you with suspicion. The few jobs in town inevitably go to White people. Layoffs affect the Black community first. Towns allocate funds to improve the White parts of town while the Black parts of town fall further and further into disrepair. This is the reality that Ms. Ward, her family, her friends, and countless others in similar situations live every day. And it takes its toll.

“One Fourth of July, [Rog] and his cousins twisted firecrackers together in a sulfurous bunch, put the firecrackers in mailboxes, and lit them. The mailboxes exploded. Someone called the police. When the police arrived, they told the kids that it was a federal offense to tamper with the mail, and they took the other two boys to a juvenile detention facility. This is how silly pranks by Black kids are handled in the South.”

The young men Ms. Ward writes about die in several different ways, but race and poverty play a role in all of them. A sense of hopelessness leads to suicide. Using drugs to beat back that same sense of hopelessness leads to an accidental overdose. Dangerous roads aren’t fixed because the town doesn’t seem to care about conditions in the Black part of town. It’s unrelenting.

But some people keep trying. Mothers keep doing their damnedest for their children. They swallow their pride, work the menial jobs, sign up for whatever assistance they can find, and keep their children fed. But keeping their children fed isn’t the same as having the opportunity to give their children more. Ms. Ward’s mother worked as a maid for a family for years to keep Jesmyn’s scholarship to a private school. But so many don’t even get that option. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle and the system is set up so that it’s only the rare, fortunate person who can break out of it.

“I knew the boys in my first novel, which I was writing at that time, weren’t as raw as they could be, weren’t real. I knew they were failing as characters because I wasn’t pushing them to assume the reality that my real-life boys, Demond among them, experienced every day. I loved them too much: as an author, I was a benevolent God. I protected them from death, from drug addiction, from needlessly harsh sentences in jail for doing stupid, juvenile things like stealing four-wheel ATVs. All of the young Black men in my life, in my community, had been prey to these things in real life, and yet in the lives I imagined for them, I avoided the truth. I couldn’t figure out how to love my characters less. How to look squarely at what was happening to the young Black people I knew in the South, and to write honestly about that. How to be an Old Testament God.”

The structure of the book is set up so that the reader moves forward through Ms. Ward’s own life and, in alternating chapters, backward through the deaths of her friends and brother. It all culminates with her brother’s death, obviously the one that hurt the most. In trying to deal with her own grief, she wishes she had words to soothe the sisters of the other young men.

“What I meant to say was this: You will always love him. He will always love you. Even though he is not here, he was here, and no one can change that. No one can take that away from you. If energy is neither created nor destroyed, and if your brother was here with his, his humor, his kindness, his hopes, doesn’t this mean that what he was still exists somewhere, even if it’s not here? Doesn’t it?”

I feel like I’m flailing around in this review, trying to make sense of my own thoughts, but I hope that I’m conveying that this book is powerful, important, and gut-wrenching. It’s not an easy read by any means. But if we as a country, as humans, are ever going to do better, we have to begin by walking in each other’s shoes. This is a good place to start. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Aug 24, 2021 |
"...I found the adage about time healing all wounds to be false: grief doesn't fade. Grief scabs over like my scars and pulls into new, painful configurations as it knits. It hurts in new ways. We are never free from grief. We are nervous free from the feeling that we have failed. We are never free from self-loathing. We are never free from the feeling that made this mess."

Men We Reaped rocked me to the core. Jesmyn Ward poured her entire heart onto these pages. I related to this book on a personal level and it validated fears I thought I had buried deep inside. Ward's writing cuts like a knife but allows for cathartic relief.

I've never thought about grief the way Ward describes it: " WE INHERIT THESE things that breed despair and self-hatred, and tragedy multiplies." It is sinister and waiting to finally catch up to us. "DEATH SPREADS, EATING away at the root or our community like a fungus". Because of the generational traumas and circumstances that are passed down in marginalized communities death is always lurking and waiting to destroy what we love the most.

Ward ultimately explores:
🖤 how we define and create community and family
🖤 how grief is carried across generations
🖤 why we are always to drawn to home despite tragedy
🖤 how communities heal and practice resiliency
🖤 the daily anxieties and fears of marginalized communities
🖤 how communities cope with grief
🖤 the effects of unresolved mental health issues in families of color
🖤 gender differences in communities
🖤 what it means to be BIPOC and poor in the South
🖤 the strength of Black women
🖤 what survival looks like as a Black person

What sticks with me the most is the idea that grief is the validation that someone's life mattered. Grief is what is left behind to remind us of how much our loved ones meant to us even if the world says otherwise. Grief never fully goes away because it is what keeps us connected to those that left us too soon. This book was powerful, heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. ( )
  Booklover217 | Jul 16, 2021 |
De mannen die we oogstten. Door Jesemyn Ward.

Een boek van 2013 dat eindelijk vertaald werd in het Nederlands. Het is een boek dat je doet glimlachen omdat Ward de gave heeft om mensen écht te zien en hen met haar pen voor onze ogen tot leven te brengen. Die glimlach sterft op je lippen als je je weer bewust wordt van wat je eigenlijk leest. Want dit memoir is een eerbetoon aan 5 jonge (zwarte) mannen in Wards leven die veel te vroeg gestorven zijn.

Chronologisch gezien is haar broer Joshua de eerste die sterft, in een auto-ongeluk. Maar zijn verhaal lezen we het laatst. Joshua sterft door een ongeluk, anderen sterven door ongelukken, drugs, verslaving, zelfmoord, geweld. Maar ze sterven, met veel en te jong.

De mannen die we oogstten is niet alleen een eerbetoon aan verloren levens maar het is ook een aanklacht tegen een maatschappij die discrimineert, racistisch is en liever wegkijkt als (jonge) mensen (vooral zwarte mensen) niet mee kunnen, het moeilijk hebben, (psychisch) lijden.

Het boek is bijna 10 jaar oud en het vertelt niet enkel het verhaal van deze mannen maar ook het verhaal van Jesemyn en haar oorsprong, te beginnen in 1977 maar eigenlijk al veel vroeger. Ze ziet hoe de geschiedenis zich herhaalt en blijft herhalen. Vrouwen, moeders, die zich kapot werken, mannen, vaders die vaak afwezig zijn, kinderen die lichamelijke en psychische littekens oplopen. Er is een overschot aan drugs, geweld, drank, en er is een tekort aan (zelf)vertrouwen, hoop en kansen.

Ward laat je het mooie zien in mensen die het moeilijk hebben, niet altijd het juiste doen maar meestal gewoonweg niet anders kunnen. Ze krijgt soms de kritiek dat ze in dit boek veel vragen opwerpt maar geen antwoorden geeft. Dat lijkt me logisch. Haar ‘taak’ is het, als ze al een verplichting heeft, om ons te laten zien wat voor een potentie, kracht, moois we verliezen door mensen, gemeenschappen aan hun lot over te laten. Kinderen verliezen niet alleen vaders, moeders niet alleen zonen, vrouwen niet alleen hun partner, hun geliefde, de kostwinnaar; ze verliezen hoop, vertrouwen, een deel van hun toekomst, een stuk van hun hart.

Dit is een moedig boek; intens, pijnlijk, rauw, nog steeds hedendaags. Het zindert, snijdt, zalft en ontroerd. Een boek om trots op te zijn, dat nooit nodig had mogen zijn. Een must read, nog steeds. ( )
  Els04 | Jun 18, 2021 |
Men We Reaped is a profusely intimate meditation on the rural Southern poverty experienced by Black folks in the Gulf told through Jesmyn Ward’s personal lens. Ward pours out her soul, sharing her experiences and telling the stories of her community with compassion and perspective. Ward’s style shines in this format as her words are crafted in such a way that reveals the depth of reflection required to make these people, her people, live and breathe in each sentence. I appreciate how she also remains self aware, acknowledging her limitations, admitting to flaws and conjecture as it fits. The result is a beautiful piece of work that will move you to tears, torn between the love and sorrow and pain and joy marking what it means to be Black and fully human in a country that disdains you for being such. ( )
  brionna20x | Apr 30, 2021 |
As a big sister, this resonated deeply. Extremely powerful. ( )
  nsol | Dec 21, 2020 |
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Forfatter navnRolleHvilken slags forfatterVærk?Status
Ward, Jesmynprimær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Boothe, CheriseFortællermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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“We saw the lightning and that was the guns; and then we heard the thunder and that was the big guns; and then 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.” —Harriet Tubman

Young adolescents in our prime live a life of crime, though it ain't logical, we hobble through these trying times. Living blind: Lord, help me with my troubled soul. Why all my homies had to die before they got to grow? -from "Words 2 My Firstborn," Tupac Shakur

I stand on the stump of a child, whether myself or my little brother who died, and yell as far as I can, I cannot leave this place, for for me it is the dearest and the worst, it is life nearest to life which is life lost: it is my place where I must stand.... -from "Easter Morning," A.R. Ammons
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Whenever my mother drove us from coastal Mississippi to New Orleans to visit my father on the weekend, she would say, "Lock the doors."
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A memoir that examines rural poverty and the lingering strains of racism in the South by the author of Salvage the bones.

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