Black History Book Tuesday: The Other Wes Moore.

When Wes Moore was reading the newspaper article about his being named a Rhodes Scholar, he caught a glimpse of an article about a young man being sought in connection with an armed robbery that resulted in the death of an off-duty police officer. The young man’s name was also Wes Moore. The Other Wes Moore tells the story of each man’s coming of age and leaves the reader to wonder, like the writer of the book did, how do two people, born in the same place, less than a year apart, end up in two completely different places, different worlds even.

The book delves into the coming of age of the two Weses, the choices they made and the consequences of those choices. Each section begins with a conversation between them in prison, where Wes Moore is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.  The conversations are good introductions to each part of the stories, and definitely thought provoking.

The book is an excellent piece of journalism. It tells a complete story of both men. One is a story of triumph and the other is a cautionary tale. The fact that they are so similar should make any reader think about the way some things are in our society, especially in the inner cities. The book does not glamorize the fact that Wes Moore is in prison for a violent crime that he most likely committed as it gives a clear indication that a family and community were victimized by his participation in the crime for which he is serving his sentence.  I really respect that aspect of the book, because it also told the story of a young man who had many obstacles in his life at the same time.

I think everyone should read the book. It gives so much insight into policies that our elected officials often make without thinking of the consequences, but does not dismiss the importance of making good choices.


Half the Mother, Twice the Love/Mother Love

I didn’t quite get around to completing all of my February books. As a matter of fact, I may be reading them until April. I’m okay with that, because I have learned so much about so many different subjects and myself as I’ve read these books.

Half the Mother, Twice the Love chronicles Mother Love’s journey of transformation (she lost over 100 pounds). The story starts in her early childhood where she was brought up in a family where food was celebrated, sometimes a bit too much. This was something I could really identify with having two parents from South Louisiana, home of gumbo, jambalaya, andouille sausage, boudin, and plenty of other dishes full of pork fat and butter.

She gives a glimpse into the struggles with diabetes of her mother, baby sister, oldest sister and eventually herself. I really appreciated the honest look (though I’m sure it wasnt pleasant) at the sometimes lax attitudes in the African American community, i.e. a little sugar (how do you have a little diabetes?).

When Mother Love shows interest in weight loss surgery to ease her symptoms, she is met with everything from fear of complications (from her husband) to outright hostility and denial of her symptoms (from friends). She ultimately decides to go through with the surgery and her weight loss definitely separates the wheat from the chaff in her relationships with family and friends alike. She meets all of the opposition with the humor and positivity that most people associate with Mother Love.

I think this book can strike a chord within anyone who has met with resistance on the path to self improvement. I really liked the facts about obesity and diabetes interspersed throughout the book. I think I’ll be adding this book to Hill Harper’s in my gift pile.

The Pursuit of Happyness/Chris Gardner

I really looked forward to reading this book, with all of the buzz surrounding the movie and the story behind it. The book gives an overview of Chris Gardner’s life, from his childhood in Milwaukee with an abusive (to put it mildly) stepfather to his life on the streets in the Bay Area with his young son to the foundation of his successful company.
I was really surprised by the candid (and explicit) language with which the tale was told. I was somewhat disappointed to read the circumstances of the failure of his marriage. Strike that. I was hot. I had to give the writer (and the ghostwriter) credit for disclosing a group of events that was not even complimentary. It ruined the story for me, though. It really did.
I was so excited to find out how he became the successful stockbroker, I skipped the first few chapters and came back to read them later. If I had read them first, I would not have completed the book, no matter how much I paid for it. I guess it is because this man’s character is so highly praised. I know he’s not perfect, but to read the kind of things that went on during his marriage, I just couldn’t respect it.

The Covenant with Black America/Tavis Smiley

I’ve heard a lot of things about Tavis Smiley. Some has been good, and the other stuff, well, notsomuch. I thought I’d take a look at The Covenant with Black America, which has been a New York Times bestseller and received other types of acclaim.
I’ve seen Tavis Smiley’s annual programs on C-SPAN, well as long as they have been on C-SPAN. At times they can be thought provoking and sometimes a bit too dramatic for my tastes, so I didn’t really have a major opinion on Tavis Smiley. I thought that he asked questions that needed to be asked of and about black America.
This book addresses several covenants, or rights that all Americans, and black Americans in particular should have. They include the right to health care and well being, establishing a system of public education in which all children achieve at high levels and reach their full potential, correcting the system of unequal justice, ensuring broad access to affordable neighborhoods that connect to opportunity, claiming our democracy, strengthening our rural roots, accessing jobs, wealth and economic prosperity, assuring racial justice for all and closing the racial digital divide.
I think that the purpose behind the covenant is noble, but can be short sighted in places. In its effort to address voting issues, not once is the possibility of absentee ballots proposed. Why is that? They are available in virtually every jurisdiction and mailing a vote with some bills is much more convenient than waiting for polls to open. If someone should decide to spread news that polls are closed or that the election will take place on another day (the kind of thing that mysteriously happens in large African American communities during the presidential election), absentee ballots are NOT affected. Yet this possibility is not even explored in the chapter, claiming our democracy.
A lot of people are not informed of the extent of the injustices that still exist in our country. I think this book is an excellent starting point towards statistics that shape our nation, but I think that other reading is necessary for those interested in a course of political activism.