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Publisher's Summary

"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)

In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five young 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 another, made Jesmyn ask the question: Why? And as she began to write about the experience of living through all the dying, she realized the truth - and it took her breath away. Her brother and her friends all died because of who they were and where they were from, because they lived with a history of racism and economic struggle that fostered drug addiction and the dissolution of family and relationships. Jesmyn says the answer was so obvious she felt stupid for not seeing it. But it nagged at her until she knew she had to write about her community, to write their stories and her own.

Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue higher education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity.

©2013 Jesmny Ward (P)2013 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"The audiobook version of Jesmyn Ward's memoir does perfect justice to the beautiful original…. This is beautiful writing, voiced beautifully, by veteran audiobook narrator Cherise Boothe, who also narrated the Recorded Books edition of Ward’s National Book Award-winning novel Salvage the Bones." ( Salon)

What members say

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  • Overall
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  • chasidyCormier
  • 03-11-2016

Felt so close to home

This book is very real. It speaks on things many people in the South have tried to cover up. Things that haunt us. This is well written. Thank you for this Jesmyn

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • E. C. Abrahams
  • 20-09-2016

Terrifyingly Moving

This is written by a woman of my son's age. I feel she teaches me that that I am naive to think that we've come a long way since the 60s. We made yards, not miles.
Black lives do matter. The lives of black men matter.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Marya Hay
  • 15-04-2015

Worth the time!

Loved it. This was beautifully written with perfect prose and raw truth. It brings the struggles of racism and systemic injustice to light through the humanity of family and individuals who persevere.
I was engaged from beginning to end. Excellent read, audio or written.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • J. Obleton
  • 28-01-2018

Great Life Story That Hit Home

I couldn't tell whether or not I like this book at first, and then I realized it was a great book, wonderfully written and pieced together. My problem want that I didn't like her real-life story, it was that it hit a little too close to home for me. I relived some of my most painful memories and re-questioned events in my life. It caused me to look in a mirror I had a cover over for many years. This was really real non-fiction.

Jesmyn Ward was brave to put her life out there for others to see. She drew me in, and I felt like I knew her family, like I was part of it, and I was saddened when I kept losing members.

Thank you for your story, Jesmyn.

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  • Kayla
  • 03-01-2018

It was ok

I struggled to finish this because I had a hard time grasping where the memoir was going. Parts felt like a story about the author, other parts felt like a disjointed story about other people told in first and second person. There had to be better way to intertwine the two. This was more or about community's story not a memoir because, as much as she tried to delve into her own life and feelings she tried just has hard to gauge what everyone around her felt and it made it difficult to follow for me. It doesnt feel like I enjoyed this one.

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  • Carly Kruer
  • 07-11-2017

great book revealed a lot about the south I

I never knew what it was like to grow up in the south till now

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-11-2017

Good

Maybe one of the most human books I have ever read, but defintally the best one.

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  • Nathaniel
  • 01-11-2017

Great listen, wonderful story.

Loved it! Listened throughout a night. Poignant. Could be my life? Tragedies felt personal. I understood. I grieved.

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  • cyndi
  • 08-05-2017

beautiful, meaningful, loving

A beautiful narration of a beautiful book. Outstanding performance by Cherise Booth. I usually read and listen to books depending on where I am. This performance was so good I preferred listening even at home. As for the story, I was transported to the perspective of a young black woman in the south. I could relate to her even though I am a generation older, white, and live in the southwest. Some things are universal. I was able to step into a different culture, learn about it, and love it. My immersion in her world has been a wonderful, eye-opening experience but also very sad and moving. To lose so many men is incredibly sad and the author conveys the emotional impact of these losses in a powerful way. But more than that, the way she delves into her depression and self-loathing as an adolescent was heartbreaking.

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  • Scott
  • 13-02-2014

A heartfelt eulogy

Any additional comments?

I listened to this book based on some glowing end of the year reviews but after having finished it I am still not quite sure what to make of it. At its best it is a heartfelt eulogy to the five men who died over a short period of time and the impact of their lives and deaths on the author. I found it a little difficult to emotionally engage with the subjects in this book as their lives are told primarily in snippets; where the book succeeds is in the authors keen observations and perspective on the various social, economic, and cultural aspects that shaped these men and in a way, made her both part of them and apart from them. Wisely, Jesmyn Ward avoids sermonizing - she lets the stories speak for themselves and there are many sad and poignant moments. Yet despite this, I wasn't moved and at times, struggled to stay interested. A definite plus was the first rate narration by Cherise Booth.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful