How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

S. & S Oct. 2019. 208p. ISBN 9781501132735. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501132759. MEMOIR
In this highly anticipated memoir, writer and poet Jones (Prelude To Bruise) begins with the influence of James Baldwin and what it means to create an alternate version of oneself. He describes a childhood spent alternating between the suburbs of Dallas with his mother, and summers in Memphis with his evangelical grandmother. With lyrical writing, Jones shows the impact of lingering silence around sexuality; gay was an unspoken word in either home. This is all set against the backdrop of the deaths of James Byrd Jr. and Matthew Shepard in 1998—if being black can get you killed and so can being gay, what does it mean to be black and gay? Throughout, Jones tells of slipping away from his mother and grandmother, of wanting a sense of newfound freedom. While college allowed this, it came with a physical and mental cost. An underlying question is: What does it mean to become someone else? Jones answers this and more, distinguishing memory from the present moment in the process. Gripping chapters on the complicated relationship with his mother, and her life with a heart condition, make for moving reading.
VERDICT An unforgettable memoir that pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the very last page. [An editor’s pick, see “Fall Fireworks.”]
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