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How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

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From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives—winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award—is a “moving, bracingly honest memoir” (The New York Times Book Review) written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. One of the best books of the year as selected by The New York Times; The Washington Post; NPR; Time; The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Ma From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives—winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award—is a “moving, bracingly honest memoir” (The New York Times Book Review) written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. One of the best books of the year as selected by The New York Times; The Washington Post; NPR; Time; The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Magazine; Harper’s Bazaar; Elle; BuzzFeed; Goodreads; and many more. “People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “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.’” Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about 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.


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From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives—winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award—is a “moving, bracingly honest memoir” (The New York Times Book Review) written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. One of the best books of the year as selected by The New York Times; The Washington Post; NPR; Time; The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Ma From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives—winner of the Kirkus Prize and the Stonewall Book Award—is a “moving, bracingly honest memoir” (The New York Times Book Review) written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. One of the best books of the year as selected by The New York Times; The Washington Post; NPR; Time; The New Yorker; O, The Oprah Magazine; Harper’s Bazaar; Elle; BuzzFeed; Goodreads; and many more. “People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “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.’” Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir about 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.

30 review for How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    In his astonishing, unparalleled memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones writes of making his body into a weapon, a fierce thing that can cut. In these pages, Jones also makes language into a fierce, cutting weapon. How We Fight For Our Lives is a coming of age story, it is a love letter to a black single mother, it is an indictment of our culture that creates so little space for gay men to learn how to be who they truly are. Most of all, this memoir is a rhapsody in the truest sense of In his astonishing, unparalleled memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones writes of making his body into a weapon, a fierce thing that can cut. In these pages, Jones also makes language into a fierce, cutting weapon. How We Fight For Our Lives is a coming of age story, it is a love letter to a black single mother, it is an indictment of our culture that creates so little space for gay men to learn how to be who they truly are. Most of all, this memoir is a rhapsody in the truest sense of the word, fragments of epic poetry woven together so skillfully, so tenderly, so brutally, that you will find yourself aching in the way only masterful writing can make a person ache. How We Fight For Our Lives is that rare book that will show you what it means to be needful, to be strong, to be gloriously human and fighting for your life.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jenna ❤ ❀ ❤

    I'm not sure how to rate this book.  The author writes beautifully and the second part of the book is pretty much a song of love and gratitude towards his mother.  5 stars for the second part. The first part?  Well.! What the heck is it with some of these coming out memoirs by gay men that have to tell you about all the dick they've had???  As a lesbian, I definitely do not enjoy hearing about dick.  This book was similar to I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put I'm not sure how to rate this book.  The author writes beautifully and the second part of the book is pretty much a song of love and gratitude towards his mother.  5 stars for the second part. The first part?  Well.! What the heck is it with some of these coming out memoirs by gay men that have to tell you about all the dick they've had???  As a lesbian, I definitely do not enjoy hearing about dick.  This book was similar to I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé, another coming out memoir by a young black man that described a lot of sex acts.  I can appreciate and identify with the questions and insecurities of growing up gay and feeling you're different.  Worrying that people will hate you if they find out.  Wondering if there is something inherently bad and wrong about you.  Had Saeed Jones left it at those questions and feelings, I would have liked this book more.  I don't see the need to talk graphically about having many sex partners, whether someone is gay, straight, or lesbian.  Unless you're writing porn (which is fine if it's labelled as such) then I don't see the merit in adding graphic sex situations. That was a big turn-off (ha ha!) for me with this book.  Mr. Jones talks a little about the Black experience too, and I appreciated learning about the specific challenges for a gay Black man in America.  I also loved reading about his mother, how he felt about her, their relationship that appeared strong and yet it was never clear whether she fully accepted his sexuality.   4 stars, though it would have been 5 if not for so much dick talk.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    I didn’t know what to expect going into this. I mostly know Saeed Jones from his Twitter presence, where he is known as @theferocity, and is very much living up to that title. He’s hilarious and deals out some incredibly sharp commentary when necessary. He’s also known for this reaction pic, which in many cases says more than any biting retort ever could: But on the rare occasion I venture off of twitter dot com, it’s important to remember that (most) of the people on that site are actual human b I didn’t know what to expect going into this. I mostly know Saeed Jones from his Twitter presence, where he is known as @theferocity, and is very much living up to that title. He’s hilarious and deals out some incredibly sharp commentary when necessary. He’s also known for this reaction pic, which in many cases says more than any biting retort ever could: But on the rare occasion I venture off of twitter dot com, it’s important to remember that (most) of the people on that site are actual human beings the rest of the time. And those of us that are familiar with the funny side of Saeed will have to reconcile that this is going to be a very moving memoir. There is so much hurt in this book. And at times it feels relentless, coming at you from all sides. Where those that are supposed to love and care for you unconditionally can inadvertently do some of the most lasting harm. And even some people who you do not consider to be a meaningful part of your life have the ability to cut you further than anyone else could. “The water is always deeper than it looks.” It’s harder than most people would think to write a good memoir. They’re my favorite nonfiction genre to read, but for that reason I’m probably a little tougher on them than other works. I feel like you need three things to push a memoir from adequate to excellent, which isn’t an easy feat. But then when someone’s able to pull it off, especially someone who doesn’t have fame and celebrity to trade on, you feel like you’ve discovered a hidden treasury of words and stories. The first thing should be a given, and it’s honestly one of the most instantly noticeable things when picking up a piece of autobiographical nonfiction. The author needs to be a good writer. Obviously Saeed Jones is exceptional; his first published works were poetry collections, and he’s not new to writing outside of that. I don’t think you have to write with the same level of prose as Jones in order to succeed here, you just have to be able to tell your story in a distinct and compelling way. If you’re writing with a strong and identifiable voice, one that many people can connect to, then you can become a good writer. At least a writer good enough to speak on your own behalf. The next thing I think potential memoir authors need is something that’s more of an issue with that subset of celebrity-written books that inevitably flood the market. You need to have stories worth telling. I have read a lot of these types of books, and the flops are usually by people who have lived a charmed life where the most interesting that happened to them was becoming famous. I don’t think you need a tragic backstory to become an author, but if you’re writing a book because an agent somewhere told you that should be your next “step”, please kindly......don’t. We get it, your dad is famous. Your parents were skeptical, but [financially] supportive. You suddenly got discovered because you’re too handsome. Chances are we’ve heard these exact stories in a 5 minute segment on a late night show, so what’s the point of printing it in a book if not for a money-grab or for an extra bit of pedigree on the resume? Saeed Jones has so many stories to share. From his childhood into adolescence and adulthood, there’s no lack of cadence in his words. But the majority of what he talks about is not unique, even if it’s not exactly common, it’s still at least somewhat recognizable. The conversations left unspoken between a mother and a son. A struggle to balance between the person you currently are and the person you want to be. A plethora of both good and bad ‘firsts’—I know at the beginning of each chapter that this isn’t going to just be filler to get the story from A to B, but that it will have a point. And that brings me to the final thing that’s necessary to write a memoir: you need to have something to say. To a point that may be true for most, if not all, books. I do think there is more of a requirement with your own life story, though. What are you trying to impact on the reader? What do you want us to take away from what you’re writing? If you can’t answer those questions, then this probably isn’t the writing project for you, yet. I don’t want to speak on Saeed’s behalf, especially since there’s an entire 192 pages where he explains himself much better than I could summarize in a Goodreads review, but Saeed Jones has plenty to say. Some of it is reflections on himself, some is an examination of societal norms or pressures, and some I think I’m only just starting to unpack. But not only was this a brilliant memoir from an extremely talented author, you can tell by the end that though How We Fight For Our Lives is a triumph, it’s really only a scratch on the surface. There’s so much more ahead for Jones’ writing career, should he want to continue, and I think we’d all be lucky to have the privilege to read whatever else he comes out with. “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.’”

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is such a great memoir. It's everything a "good" memoir should be-- sensual, moving, thoughtful, provoking, erotic, intense, and unique-- but it also opens up many meaningful discussions and dialogues about what it means to be black, what it means to be gay, what it means to be both, and how it feels to be part of a group that is singled out, even from within members of each disparate community (hence the ever- Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is such a great memoir. It's everything a "good" memoir should be-- sensual, moving, thoughtful, provoking, erotic, intense, and unique-- but it also opens up many meaningful discussions and dialogues about what it means to be black, what it means to be gay, what it means to be both, and how it feels to be part of a group that is singled out, even from within members of each disparate community (hence the ever-important need for intersectionality in political movements). Saeed is a really great memoirist. His writing is gorgeous and flows. This is one of the first memoirs I've read in a while that almost feels like fiction, in that the author is able to distance himself from, well, himself, and write personally and honestly about his experiences without making you feel like he's trying to apologize for being the way he is or offer some sort of narrative direction. It makes the memoir feel really personal, and at the same time, you also feel like you're watching a story unfold. I don't really have any complaints about this book. Some people have said that they did not like Saeed's choices (I can kind of guess which ones), but experience makes us who we are. I'm pretty hard to shock at this point, and felt like this memoir was very tame compared to others I have read. I liked how he melded his story with the concerns many people have with regard to racism and discrimination, and the parts about his mother were heart-wrenching. Definitely a must-read for those looking for great new books by black and/or LGBT+ authors. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!   4 to 4.5 stars

  5. 4 out of 5

    emma

    feeding my memoir addiction update: holy moley. this was intense and excellent. won't be reviewing beyond that because this is so, so personal. -------------- reading all books with LGBTQ+ rep for pride this month! book 1: the gravity of us book 2: the great american whatever book 3: wild beauty book 4: the affair of the mysterious letter book 5: how we fight for our lives feeding my memoir addiction update: holy moley. this was intense and excellent. won't be reviewing beyond that because this is so, so personal. -------------- reading all books with LGBTQ+ rep for pride this month! book 1: the gravity of us book 2: the great american whatever book 3: wild beauty book 4: the affair of the mysterious letter book 5: how we fight for our lives

  6. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

    Tell me more, please! I hardly ever say this, but this book was too short--I wanted more! Saeed Jones is a fantastic storyteller, even when he is telling stories that are heartbreaking and difficult to read. His vignettes about finding his place as a young, gay black man from the South are powerful and vivid. There are age-old adages about how literature helps us understand others, and How We Fight For Our Lives is a window into experiences that are completely unlike my own. I wanted more becaus Tell me more, please! I hardly ever say this, but this book was too short--I wanted more! Saeed Jones is a fantastic storyteller, even when he is telling stories that are heartbreaking and difficult to read. His vignettes about finding his place as a young, gay black man from the South are powerful and vivid. There are age-old adages about how literature helps us understand others, and How We Fight For Our Lives is a window into experiences that are completely unlike my own. I wanted more because the vignettes left some things out. Roughly 2/3 of the way through the memoir, Jones frames a traumatic event as a turning point for him. We're only given bits and pieces of how his thinking and behavior changed after this event, so I wanted to hear this part of the story, too. The memoir ends in 2011, which seems like an odd stopping point for a very young man's story. Jones was born in 1985, so 2011-2019 is roughly a quarter of his life. I understand why he chose to end this memoir where he did, but I also wonder how he has grown since then. Four stars. Read How We Fight for Our Lives if you're interested in a powerful account of the author's intersectional experience. (Readers should be forewarned that some content is graphic.) Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for giving me a DRC of this book, which will be available for purchase on October 8th.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    High 4 stars How We Fight For Our Lives is a powerful short memoir. Saeed Jones is gay and black. He grew up in Texas with a single mother Buddhist convert who suffered from congenital heart disease. This memoir spans Jones’ life from ages 12 to 25. Jones gives his readers a raw taste of his life in that time span, including the rough ride he got from peers in high school and his successful but self-destructive self-reinvention as a student in at a small college in Kentucky. Jones also delves int High 4 stars How We Fight For Our Lives is a powerful short memoir. Saeed Jones is gay and black. He grew up in Texas with a single mother Buddhist convert who suffered from congenital heart disease. This memoir spans Jones’ life from ages 12 to 25. Jones gives his readers a raw taste of his life in that time span, including the rough ride he got from peers in high school and his successful but self-destructive self-reinvention as a student in at a small college in Kentucky. Jones also delves into the strong bond with his mother and the fractious relationship with the rest of his family. I loved Jones’ honesty. I also loved that he is not self-flattering or self-pitying. I especially loved the last part in which he deals so honestly with the grief of losing his mother at 25. I hope Jones produces other segments of his life in memoir form. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Malia

    I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a shor I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a short book, but I think it will stay with me for some time to come. Thanks to Netgalley for supplying me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  9. 4 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    It brings me great pain and joy to know Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives will be set upon us all. Pain for the collective loss and sorrow gay black boys have suffered, and joy in knowing that it is stories like these that will set us free. It’s been a month since I read Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives, and I fumbled so long to put words to its visceral glamour. When I first heard of its arrival over the winter, I needed it immediately. To imagine the amount of blood, sweat, and tea It brings me great pain and joy to know Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives will be set upon us all. Pain for the collective loss and sorrow gay black boys have suffered, and joy in knowing that it is stories like these that will set us free. It’s been a month since I read Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives, and I fumbled so long to put words to its visceral glamour. When I first heard of its arrival over the winter, I needed it immediately. To imagine the amount of blood, sweat, and tears Saeed must’ve sacrificed to saturate these pages is beyond me. What emerges from that offering is a story of a gay boy coming into the blackness of his body, its starkest desires and demands, and an anthem of unsung single black mothers who must raise their boys to be their own saviors before it’s too late. Front to back, no other book has echoed so much of my own experience as a gay black boy like this. It took no effort at all to read Saeed’s story with an empathetic heart because I have been living this story in real time. There were so many instances I caught myself saying, “I know what that feels like too” and “Yes. Yes, that was me! That’s STILL me!” "You never forget your first 'faggot.' Because the memory, in its way, makes you. It becomes a spine for the body of anxieties and insecurities that will follow, something to hang all that meat on. Before you were just scrawny; now you're scrawny because you're a faggot. Before you were just bookish; now you're bookish because you're a faggot. Soon, bullies won't even have to say the word. Nor will friends, as they start to sit at different lunch tables without explanation. There will already be a voice in your head whispering 'faggot' for them." I was pricked with my first N-word assault by another white boy whose vestige still haunts me in the faces of white men wanting to be friends, lovers, or bringers of harm. I watched my mother’s smile dissolve in the face of financial and spiritual uncertainty, and the tenacity with which she raged at every whisper of my sexuality and my little brother’s autism. I, too, have submitted to the dehumanizing fetishes of white men that can drive a vulnerable black boy to hate himself and others like him. I know the sting of falling for straight men capable of nothing more than breaking our hearts if not our whole being. And above all, I still tussle with the prodigious fear of a lonely, loveless life because of who I was born to be. Thanks, Simon & Schuster friends, for sending me this remarkable book — and Saeed Jones, for sharing your light with the world. ❤️ If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    Saeed Jones writes about growing up black and gay in a family that preferred not to have its secrets spoken out loud. He went on to college in Kentucky which had its own challenges but it is also where he found his voice as a writer. I particularly loved the family dynamics - single mother and Buddhism in the south makes for some great moments. How Saeed is tokenized and/or overlooked for hookups aligns with what I've heard from other black men, but no less disheartening. I look forward to readi Saeed Jones writes about growing up black and gay in a family that preferred not to have its secrets spoken out loud. He went on to college in Kentucky which had its own challenges but it is also where he found his voice as a writer. I particularly loved the family dynamics - single mother and Buddhism in the south makes for some great moments. How Saeed is tokenized and/or overlooked for hookups aligns with what I've heard from other black men, but no less disheartening. I look forward to reading his poetry and anything else from this point forward.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Madalyn (Novel Ink)

    This book first came up on my radar when I heard the author interviewed on my favorite podcast last year, and it feels like my library hold for it came in at exactly the right time. How We Fight for Our Lives chronicles Saeed Jones coming of age as a Black gay man in the South in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Jones’s background in poetry is evident in the quality and flow of the writing, because this is one of my most beautifully written memoirs I’ve read in quite some time. It’s not always an easy This book first came up on my radar when I heard the author interviewed on my favorite podcast last year, and it feels like my library hold for it came in at exactly the right time. How We Fight for Our Lives chronicles Saeed Jones coming of age as a Black gay man in the South in the late 90’s and 2000’s. Jones’s background in poetry is evident in the quality and flow of the writing, because this is one of my most beautifully written memoirs I’ve read in quite some time. It’s not always an easy read, but it’s one I’m so glad exists. If you’re looking to read some nonfiction by queer Black authors this Pride month or any other time of the year, I can’t recommend this one enough.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Very, very good. Review to come.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tucker (TuckerTheReader)

    is it illegal to give a book five stars before even reading it? | Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram is it illegal to give a book five stars before even reading it? | Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram

  14. 4 out of 5

    Traci Thomas

    This book is soooo good. Saeed Jones is a force. His skills as a poet is fully evident in the prose of this book. Sexuality. Humanity. Blackness. Family. Grief. It’s all in here. He is vulnerable and he is genius and just wow!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    Saeed Jone’s How We Fight For Our Lives was the queer Black memoir exploring adolescence, striving, self loathing, racism in the gay community, intimate partner violence, grief, poverty, and that quintessential imperfect profoundly complex relationship between a son and his mother that everyone needs to read. This book, read by the author himself, is so beautiful and so honest and so full of peer and also hope and also pain. It’s an elegy to so much that Jones has clearly worked to grow through Saeed Jone’s How We Fight For Our Lives was the queer Black memoir exploring adolescence, striving, self loathing, racism in the gay community, intimate partner violence, grief, poverty, and that quintessential imperfect profoundly complex relationship between a son and his mother that everyone needs to read. This book, read by the author himself, is so beautiful and so honest and so full of peer and also hope and also pain. It’s an elegy to so much that Jones has clearly worked to grow through amongst some enormous loss and terrifying violence, and an entire nation state fighting against his very survival. I want more of this voice and more voices like it. A book I loved from beginning to end, and one I would easily read again, pick this one up for Pride month and for always.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cortney

    So many thoughts but I’m going to keep them to myself since this is his real life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bill Khaemba

    Relistened to the audiobook and I am still in awe So moved by this piece that I can't even begin to describe it... Just go read it Relistened to the audiobook and I am still in awe So moved by this piece that I can't even begin to describe it... Just go read it

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    Wow ... I didn’t know what I was expecting from this memoir but this was so much more. It’s the story of the author’s life told by navigating through important moments of his life and the ultimate thread overall is his relationship with his beloved single mother. You can clearly see Jones is a poet because even his prose is stunningly beautiful and evocative - literally brimming with feelings like desperation, confusion, longing, fear and grief - and listening to the audiobook in his own voice b Wow ... I didn’t know what I was expecting from this memoir but this was so much more. It’s the story of the author’s life told by navigating through important moments of his life and the ultimate thread overall is his relationship with his beloved single mother. You can clearly see Jones is a poet because even his prose is stunningly beautiful and evocative - literally brimming with feelings like desperation, confusion, longing, fear and grief - and listening to the audiobook in his own voice brings even more life to it. I thought his particular fear about the ramifications of being both Black and gay was very palpable in his words and I could feel it myself. It really broke my heart. I was so lost in his words that I didn’t realize it was already over, and I just wanted to know more. This memoir truly deserves all the accolades it’s getting across the community and I hope everyone picks this up. I’m not much of a poetry reader but I definitely wanna go back and checkout his previous award winning poetry books.

  19. 5 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    Expectations are a bitch. This book was highly-praised, so already there's a high bar. On the level of the sentence, the poetry of the prose is beyond excellent. It's beautiful, tragic, evocative, sad, and hopeful. But ultimately it is a young writer's memoir, and that is why I was a little disappointed. Are we never to move beyond self-loathing and self-sabotage? Plus, I have to say: all that Buddhist chanting does not seem to have resulted in any sort of grounded mindfulness (my own teacher, wh Expectations are a bitch. This book was highly-praised, so already there's a high bar. On the level of the sentence, the poetry of the prose is beyond excellent. It's beautiful, tragic, evocative, sad, and hopeful. But ultimately it is a young writer's memoir, and that is why I was a little disappointed. Are we never to move beyond self-loathing and self-sabotage? Plus, I have to say: all that Buddhist chanting does not seem to have resulted in any sort of grounded mindfulness (my own teacher, who wrote a book called NOT FOR HAPPINESS, considers many practices just to be performative, demonstrating the ego's grip on superstitions more than a grasp of buddhist precepts). However, once again I want to point out that much of my difficulty with this book is because of my own internalized homophobia, and how hard it is to bear my own weight of self-loathing, how doubly hard it is to walk with this anguished human on his journey — especially since it is so well written and therefore even more beautifully painful and painfully beautiful. Life is suffering, indeed.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    I worried because of Jones's background in poetry that his memoir might be too abstract, too poem-like for me. But absolutely not. The prose is powerful, clean, laser-sharp in terms of imagery and theme. If anything, the fault with this book is that it's too short. The writing's so good, I just wanted more of it. It begins as the story of a black boy in Texas (age 12 or 13), a black gay boy in Texas, and how that makes Jones feel both alone and terrified of society (and justifiably so). Then the I worried because of Jones's background in poetry that his memoir might be too abstract, too poem-like for me. But absolutely not. The prose is powerful, clean, laser-sharp in terms of imagery and theme. If anything, the fault with this book is that it's too short. The writing's so good, I just wanted more of it. It begins as the story of a black boy in Texas (age 12 or 13), a black gay boy in Texas, and how that makes Jones feel both alone and terrified of society (and justifiably so). Then the memoir traces his life through high school, into college on the speech and debate team at Western Kentucky, and into the field of teaching and writing. But a great deal of the memoir is about his relationships with his mother and his grandmother, both strong, but very different women. Such a powerful memoir. It's no surprise this just won the Kirkus Prize.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Darryl Suite

    This had me shook. Incredible stuff. A fantastic read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Philip

    Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. What a beautiful memoir from Saeed Jones. Coming of age, coming out, relationships with family, a son and his single mother. Racism, homophobia - external and internal. Without giving away any real spoilers, I must say it was so intimate to use his sexual experiences as a platform for the horror of racism. And throughout the book his Mom shines through which makes me miss my own Mom. What a brave young man to share his experi Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. What a beautiful memoir from Saeed Jones. Coming of age, coming out, relationships with family, a son and his single mother. Racism, homophobia - external and internal. Without giving away any real spoilers, I must say it was so intimate to use his sexual experiences as a platform for the horror of racism. And throughout the book his Mom shines through which makes me miss my own Mom. What a brave young man to share his experiences with us. Very real.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    “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.” Being black can get you killed. Being gay can get you killed. Being a black gay boy is “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.” Being black can get you killed. Being gay can get you killed. Being a black gay boy is a death wish.” TW: abuse (physical, mental, emotional, verbal – mentioned), animal death (natural causes), excessive or gratuitous violence, depiction of pornography, depiction of sex scenes, death, blood. Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir 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 Saeed Jones can write, and I will start by affirming that his prose is one of the most beautiful I have ever encountered. His words paint such poetic pictures and are linked so tightly to his own emotional life experiences, that you feel right there with him, in a rich and vivid imagery. It is the kind of book you might end up quoting in its entirety because every single word carries its importance through a narrative, one that is paramount nowadays. I laughed, I cried, I felt compassion and rage, How We Fight For Our Lives is introduces a voice everyone needs to hear about, as it teaches a lot about grief, acceptance, personal exploration and identity. Saeed’s assertiveness is violently intricated to a deep-rooted issue in America, an eye-opening experience which adds more urgency to fight against homophobia and racism. A very necessary read I wouldn’t recommend to everyone – it is very raw and violent but deeply honest, and I can imagine some of the porn/sexual talk to be sensitively triggering.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    What a truly incredible memoir! I devoured this in one sitting, couldn't put it down - couldn't turn the pages fast enough and really wanted more once I was finished. How We Fight For Our Lives is powerful, captivating, heart wrenching and also full of strength. I admire so much that these amazing humans allow us, complete strangers, to see into their world, to read their truth. This is a memoir everyone needs in their life. I highly encourage you to read this. Thank you so so much Simon & Schust What a truly incredible memoir! I devoured this in one sitting, couldn't put it down - couldn't turn the pages fast enough and really wanted more once I was finished. How We Fight For Our Lives is powerful, captivating, heart wrenching and also full of strength. I admire so much that these amazing humans allow us, complete strangers, to see into their world, to read their truth. This is a memoir everyone needs in their life. I highly encourage you to read this. Thank you so so much Simon & Schuster Canada for my review copy! I'm blown away!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    I read in one sitting, and woo this is one of those memoirs that will live with me forever. It’s raw and powerful and it’s out in October, and if you’re a fan of memoirs definitely have this one on your radar. He’s also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tori (InToriLex)

    A wonderful exploration of what it means to learn who you are while facing the dangerousness of being black and gay. Saeed draws you in with quality prose and keeps you interested by walking you through his trauma so you can't look away. A wonderful exploration of what it means to learn who you are while facing the dangerousness of being black and gay. Saeed draws you in with quality prose and keeps you interested by walking you through his trauma so you can't look away.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    4.5/5 I strongly recommend the audio read by the author. His passages about his mother and their relationship will bring tears.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Melania 🍒

    3.75|5 - Book Riots 2020 Read Harder Challenge -11.Read a debut novel by a queer author - I’m very happy books like this one exist. There should be more of them out there and more well known. It’s not even that relevant that I, personally, haven’t loved it as much as maybe I was expecting. I think I wasn’t able to relate to everything in here, but I really loved the son-mother relationship. And everything about that part of his life was very interesting and touching for me to read about. But then 3.75|5 - Book Riots 2020 Read Harder Challenge -11.Read a debut novel by a queer author - I’m very happy books like this one exist. There should be more of them out there and more well known. It’s not even that relevant that I, personally, haven’t loved it as much as maybe I was expecting. I think I wasn’t able to relate to everything in here, but I really loved the son-mother relationship. And everything about that part of his life was very interesting and touching for me to read about. But then again, the only thing that matters is that we need more books like this one, please!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mikaela

    I really, really wanted to like this one more than I did. I loved meeting Saeed at a conference earlier this year and I love his poetry (his poem included in the book is definitely one of my favorites). Additionally, I think that his story of growing up black and gay is an important addition to the canon of growing up as an American teenager. But I don't think this book quite lives up to the promise. At times, How We Fight For Our Lives feels more like a collection of traumatic memories than a f I really, really wanted to like this one more than I did. I loved meeting Saeed at a conference earlier this year and I love his poetry (his poem included in the book is definitely one of my favorites). Additionally, I think that his story of growing up black and gay is an important addition to the canon of growing up as an American teenager. But I don't think this book quite lives up to the promise. At times, How We Fight For Our Lives feels more like a collection of traumatic memories than a fully realized memoir. The narrative describes in detail (sometimes too much so) formative encounters with homophobia, panicked late-night trips to the ER, racism's role in certain sexual dynamics, and other terrifying traumatic moments that undoubtedly shaped Saeed as a person and writer--but the book is sorely missing any moments of joy to round out the overwhelming sadness. It feels petty to demand more descriptions of happiness from a book dealing with such heavy topics but it also feels necessary to remain true to life. As is, Saeed's portrayal of himself seems less like a complete living, breathing, flawed human and more like someone that bad things happen to. Any memoir trying to shed light on difficult situations is incomplete if it doesn't force the reader to come to terms that a real human is experiencing the said difficult situation. (Side note: Know My Name does this very well; Chanel is well aware of the fact that an audience (be that readers or a jury) must always see the memoirist as a real person.) All that being said, I did love Saeed's writing and I know I'll most likely read whatever he releases next, whether that means more poems or another book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    Jones's remarkable coming-of-age memoir about being a Black gay man from the South is told in a series of moments and scenes from his childhood through young adulthood. My husband Will cited this one as a favorite in What Should I Read Next Episode 214: Deconstructing your best reading year yet because of Jones's storytelling. Note: the audiobook, read by the author, is excellent. Jones's remarkable coming-of-age memoir about being a Black gay man from the South is told in a series of moments and scenes from his childhood through young adulthood. My husband Will cited this one as a favorite in What Should I Read Next Episode 214: Deconstructing your best reading year yet because of Jones's storytelling. Note: the audiobook, read by the author, is excellent.

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