STARRED REVIEW
October 2019

How We Fight for Our Lives

By Saeed Jones
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In How We Fight for Our Lives, award-winning poet Saeed Jones (Prelude to Bruise) weaves a series of stinging, memorable vignettes into a powerful coming-of-age memoir. This intimate book, which details his experiences growing up black and gay in the American South, is a required and distinctly singular read.

Through flowing metaphors and dialogue, rich language and deeply personal family stories, we learn about Jones’ struggle for his identity—why he built a suit of invisible armor to protect himself when no one else would. Jones writes, “If America was going to hate me for being black and gay, then I might as well make a weapon out of myself.” Almost every passage feels like a fresh, raw wound, ready to leave a scar.

Each vignette represents a different stage in Jones’ blossoming life, and together they create a kaleidoscope of the difficulties that can stem from hiding oneself from the world. We travel with him as the child of a single mother in Lewisville, Texas, to his strained teenage relationship with his religious grandmother in Memphis, Tennessee, to destructive sexual experiences with friends, lovers and strangers, to his life in college and beyond, where he has yet to accept himself as a full person, rather than as a performer who needs to be interesting enough to entertain a crowd. Jones recognizes his desire to wear a mask early on, but it’s difficult to remove the mask once he has the chance.

Jones knows that accepting himself in a racist and homophobic world is an act of radical self-love, and this devastating memoir illustrates why such an act is worth the long struggle.

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How We Fight for Our Lives

How We Fight for Our Lives

By Saeed Jones
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781501132735

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