Monday, August 16, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: The Other Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two FatesThe Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates Wes Moore

The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.

In December 2000, there were two stories in the Baltimore Sun about two different men, both named Wes Moore. One had just won a Rhodes scholarship, one was wanted in connection with a jewelry store robbery in which an off-duty police officer was murdered. For years, the Wes Moore that won the Rhodes scholarship wondered about the other Wes Moore, who was now in prison, serving a life sentence without the chance of parole. They both grew up poor at the same time, without fathers. Why did one end up speaking at the Democratic National Convention mere hours before Obama accepted the nomination and one end up in prison?

This book doesn't answer the question, because they're not clear. But it tells a story of two boys who grow into two men and the choices they made and why. It shows two very similiar, and two very different lives. I could talk about the details of their lives, but you should read it for yourself to find out. Or, watch Moore explain his book to Stephen Colbert: embed clip:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Wes Moore
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News

But, beyond the subject matter, it's just really well written. Moore can tell a story, and tell it well. When I picked it up, I just started reading the introduction. The introduction was not new information for me-- I'd seen him on Colbert and listened to an interview with Moore on the Diane Rehm show. Even though I knew the information from the introduction, I just couldn't put the book down. It's gripping and readable and worth the hype its been getting. Moore also includes information on over 200 organizations to help at-risk youth across the country.

My only quibble with the book is that is says both Wes Moores grew up in Baltimore which is... not entirely true. The author was born on the DC/Maryland border, probably extremely close to where I work. After his father died, his mother moved the family to the Bronx, to live with her parents. He then ended up at Valley Forge military school in rural Pennsylvania before moving back to Baltimore to attend Johns Hopkins (his mother had moved back a few years prior.) Meanwhile, the other Wes Moore spent his entire life in Baltimore City and Baltimore County (which surrounds the city on three sides-- it's a very odd set-up that still doesn't make entire sense 5 years after moving to this area.)

What really shocked me was at the end of the book, when Moore is starting his Rhodes scholarship, right after 9/11. That's when it hit me that the Wes Moore who wrote this book was only a year above me in school, two years older than me. When I was growing up in a mid-sized town in the midwest, watching the crack wars and inner city the evening news, these men were living it. It brought the book back to me in a way that was more personal than a lot of nonfiction is.

In a million different ways, it's an amazing book, and you should read it. I think a lot of teens will really enjoy it as well, and be able to get a lot of it.

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Book Provided by... my local library

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