Book Review: How We Fight For Our Lives
“𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘐 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘪𝘵 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘢 𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘧𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦. 𝘐𝘧 𝘈𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘤𝘢 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘨𝘰𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘮𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘣𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘬 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘨𝘢𝘺, 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘐 𝘮𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘢𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘸𝘦𝘢𝘱𝘰𝘯 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘮𝘺𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧”
It’s a little past midnight, but I read this memoir in one day and I need to write this review RIGHT NOW!
SUMMARY: Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.
An award-winning poet, Jones has developed a style that’s as beautiful as it is powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one-of-a-kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.
Briefly, the memoir focuses on Saeed’s life from 1998-2011, from the age of 12 to roughly 25 (which is blowing my mind as I’m already 29 myself). It centers on his extremely personal experiences of growing up gay and black in mostly small towns under the care of a single mother. The middle of the book is mostly about Saeed’s life and sexual experiences as he transitions from high school to college, but the beginning and end bookend beautifully with his relationship with his mother (and really she’s a constant thread throughout).
I appreciate Saeed’s candor and vulnerability in telling his story. There are moments both shocking and raw (sexual and violent). I am neither gay nor black, so I couldn’t personally relate to everything, but he told his story with such beauty, heart, and humanity that it was easy to empathize with all of it. Also I am not typically a fan of explicit sex in books, and word of warning here it gets graphic at times, but I am so glad overall that I read this book.
Saeed gets to the heart of his experiences and the writing is both poetic and real in a way that is captivating. I simply couldn’t put it down! This book is very much about his life, but it is also a wonderful tribute to his mother and mothers everywhere