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Jesmyn Ward’s tale of tangled roots: Men We Reaped

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Format: Hardcover, Bloomsbury, 2013, http://www.alibris.co.uk/Men-We-Reaped-A-Memoir-Jesmyn-Ward/book/24495744?matches=22&cm_sp=works*listing*title

Title: Men We Reaped: A Memoir

Author: Jesmyn Ward

Genre: Biography, autobiography, historical

*Fascinating note: Jesmyn Ward is an American novelist. She won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction[1][2] and a 2012 Alex Award[3] with her second novel Salvage the Bones, a story about familial love and community covering the 10 days preceding Hurricane Katrina, the day of the cyclone, and the day after.[4] An assistant professor of Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama,[5] Ward is currently working on a memoir.[5] She was the John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi for the 2010–2011 academic year.[6] From 2008 to 2010 Ward had a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University.[7]

**Jesmyn Ward is distinguished by Emory University (2013) during the Creative Writing Series:

http://arts.emory.edu/news/press-releases/092413.html

Synopsis: Jesymn Ward’s text opens to readers without pretense or fanfare. The author unwraps the bandages placed upon bleeding, open wounds. These open wounds come in form of the carnage of her lost, male, loved ones. But, the brilliance and artistry of Ward is that the personal becomes the public. We are all widowed, orphaned, and abandoned by the deaths of the five, black males that this text chronicles. The stories, the lives, the loves, the losses, and the eventual deaths unfold slowly. Roger Eric Daniels (III), Demond Cook, Charles Joseph Martin, Ronald Wayne Lizana, and Joshua Adam Dedeaux are forced back to life by Ward. In the style and symmetry of a William Faulkner or Toni Morrison novel, the story of men and women of tangled, ethnic roots comes forth. We experience the little, trivial things which form lives and build roots. And it is the little, trivial things which compound and lead to the deaths of these men. It is Ward, the author, that de-trivializes the events and forces you to feel compassion and we find that her loss…is our loss. Readers will find that this author is one to follow in the future.

Critique: William Faulkner’s skill at recreating the Southern hemisphere of America remained dormant (no other author could master it) until Jesymn Ward wrote her memoir, Men We Reaped. Faulkner, like Mark Twain, spoke of the tangled, cultural roots of Blacks and Whites in code. The fictional characters, towns, and characters of Faulkner and Twain were places of retreat for the authors. They dared not come forth and publicly address the tyranny of Jim Crow and the tangled roots and heritage of Whites and Blacks. Jesymn Ward knows not the cowardice of other authors. She feels impelled to tell her truth and the truth of her loved ones. She comes forth with the stories of the sons of the Mississippi and the river banks of life. A roaring current pulls these men and women onward, upward, and downward. Racism, poverty, ambition, and bad luck abound in the lives of these men. And the women are left behind to mourn. Jesymn Ward pays tribute to these men and women. We, as readers, acknowledge the loss incurred by the invisibility of these youths in our society. I suggest that devotees of Southern, American history read this book. You will appreciate the style and craft which embodies the telling of a stories that are tragic…..and the stories are to be American treasures.

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