OK. I’ve gushed over Jesmyn Ward enough in the past three years. Her novel Sing, Unburied, Sing made the Best Reads list in 2017. Salvage the Bones, her Hurricane Katrina novel, was on the list last year and is on my all-time Top Ten. So, it’s not surprising that this Mississippi writer finds her way onto this year’s list as well. Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, tells the story of her life so far through the stories of five Black men in her life who died within a short period of time. It’s her story, the land’s story, a people’s story. And once again, wow.
My full review is here, but you can read an excerpt below:
Ward concludes her book by saying, “By the numbers, by all the official records, here at the confluence of history, of racism, of poverty, and economic power, this is what our lives are worth: nothing.”(237) So she goes beyond the numbers to tell the stories. And what she reclaims in the lives of the black men she lost is a wispy hint of something substantial, like a ghost. But to borrow a phrase of the moment, she says their names. And in saying them she fights back against the forces that would leave them nameless and nothing.