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How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

How We Fight for Our Lives

by Saeed Jones

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962197,017 (4.19)3
"Written from the crossroads of sex, race, and power in America, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir and a haunting reflection of the nation as a whole"--



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How We Fight For Our Lives is a marvelous memoir written in chapters that function as individual essays. Saeed Jones tells us about growing up a gay Black boy in Texas, his relationships with his mother and grandmother, and his age of exploration as a young man in college. A coming-of-age memoir, it is also the story of his love for his mother and how she shaped him.

One of the most shocking moments in the memoir is when his grandmother takes him to church. It’s clear she has talked to the pastor, expressing her concern that her young grandson is too worldly (too gay) and asking him to pray for him. The pastor calls down illness upon his mother because her Buddhist faith is blamed for his problems. Since his mother had heart problems, this seemed impossibly wrong. It is not bad enough the world is against him for being Black and being gay, his family is failing him, too.

He describes this so delicately, “People don’t just happen. 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.” My grandmother and I, without knowing it, were faithfully following a script that had already been written for us. A woman raises a boy into a man, loving him so intensely that her commitment finally repulses him.”

Of course, your family is family and forgiveness can be found…even when people don’t ask for it.

How We Fight For Our Lives is beautifully written. Jones has a poet’s felicity with language. His writing is beautiful. At times it is brutal as when he talks about his risk-taking sexual adventures. Other times it is delicate, as in the description of what passed with his grandmother. It is always honest and blunt.

I am not a straight white woman and Jones is a gay Black man. We are biographical antipodes, but he writes so well, it does not matter. I loved his stories. I admire his compassion and his drive to succeed. He dreamed of going to New York City, but when he could not afford the tuition for NYU, he adjusted, seeking a school that gave him a full scholarship and deferring the New York dream to his postgraduate career. This is a mature man, a wise man, and he wrote a loving memoir of his family and of fighting for his life.

I received an e-galley of How We Fight For Our Lives from the publisher through NetGalley

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2019/10/31/9781501132735/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Oct 31, 2019 |
"Being black can get you killed
Being gay can get you killed
Being a black gay boy is a death wish"

So Saeed Jones understands the challenges he faces as a young man. This memoir follows his evolution into adulthood coming to terms with his sexuality, race, and especially the troubled relationship with his mother. The memoir captures the extreme risks he takes to explore his sexuality. One wonders why he didn't find more satisfying partners as a young man and only hopes that this will eventually happen for him. His relationship with his mother is especially poignant as it evokes the all too common black mother struggling to raise and protect her children alone in a world that views them with hostility. Only after her death does he come to appreciate her importance to his development. Meeting the old woman in Barcelona is a powerful metaphor for his relationship with his mother. Memoirs written by young people can be unsatisfying reads because of the lack of a wider life experience. Certainly, this seems to be a problem here, but Saeed copes remarkably well. ( )
  ozzer | Oct 20, 2019 |
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