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The Other Wes Moore

Cover of The Other Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore

One Name, Two Fates
by Wes Moore

BONUS: This edition contains a new afterword and a The Other Wes Moore discussion guide.

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

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

BONUS: This edition contains a new afterword and a The Other Wes Moore discussion guide.

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

Two kids named Wes Moore were born blocks apart within a year of each other. Both grew up fatherless in similar Baltimore neighborhoods and had difficult childhoods; both hung out on street corners with their crews; both ran into trouble with the police. How, then, did one grow up to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader, while the other ended up a convicted murderer serving a life sentence? Wes Moore, the author of this fascinating book, sets out to answer this profound question. In alternating narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

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Copies-
  • Available:
    0
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    7.1
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    6

Recommended for you


Excerpts-
  • Chapter One Chapter One


    Is Daddy Coming with Us?

    1982

    Nikki and I would play this game: I would sit on the living room chair while Nikki deeply inhaled and then blew directly in my face, eliciting hysterical laughs on both sides. This was our ritual. It always ended with me jabbing playfully at her face. She'd run away and bait me to give chase. Most times before today I never came close to catching her. But today, I caught her and realized, like a dog chasing a car, I had no idea what to do. So, in the spirit of three-year-old boys everywhere who've run out of better ideas, I decided to punch her. Of course my mother walked into the room right as I swung and connected.

    The yell startled me, but her eyes are what I remember.

    "Get up to your damn room" came my mother's command from the doorway. "I told you, don't you ever put your hands on a woman!"

    I looked up, confused, as she quickly closed the distance between us.

    My mother had what we called "Thomas hands," a tag derived from her maiden name: hands that hit so hard you had to be hit only once to know you never wanted to be hit again. The nickname began generations ago, but each generation took on the mantle of justifying it. Those hands were now reaching for me. Her eyes told me it was time to get moving.

    I darted up the stairs, still unsure about what I'd done so terribly wrong. I headed to the bedroom I shared with my baby sister, Shani. Our room was tiny, barely big enough for my small bed and her crib. There was no place to hide. I was running in circles, frantic to find a way to conceal myself. And still trying to comprehend why I was in so much trouble. I couldn't even figure out the meaning of half the words my mother was using.

    In a panic, I kicked the door shut behind me just as her voice reached the second floor. "And don't let me hear you slam that—" Boom! I stared for a moment at the closed door, knowing it would soon be flying open again. I sat in the middle of the room, next to my sister's empty crib, awaiting my fate.

    Then, deliverance.

    "Joy, you can't get on him like that." My father's baritone voice drifted up through the thin floor. "He's only three. He doesn't even understand what he did wrong. Do you really think he knows what a woman beater is?"

    My father was in the living room, ten feet from where the incident began. He was a very slender six foot two with a bushy mustache and a neatly shaped afro. It wasn't his style to yell. When he heard my mother's outburst, he rose from his chair, his eyes widening in confusion. My mother slowly reeled herself in. But she wasn't completely mollified.
    "Wes, he needs to learn what is acceptable and what is not!" My father agreed, but with a gentle laugh, reminded her that cursing at a young boy wasn't the most effective way of making a point. I was saved, for the moment.

    My first name, Westley, is my father's. I have two middle names, a compromise between my parents. My father loved the sound and meaning of Watende, a Shona word that means "revenge will not be sought," a concept that aligned with his gentle spirit. My mother objected. Watende sounded too big, too complicated for such a tiny baby. It wasn't until later in life that she understood why it was so important to my father that Watende be a part of me. Instead, she lobbied for Omari, which means "the highest." I'm not sure what was easier or less lofty about that name, but I was well into elementary school before I became comfortable spelling either.

    My parents' debate continued downstairs, but their words faded. I went to the room's only window and looked out on the world. My older sister, Nikki, and...

About the Author-
  • Wes Moore is a Rhodes Scholar and a combat veteran of Afghanistan. As a White House Fellow, he worked as a special assistant to Secretary Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. He was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, was named one of Ebony magazine's Top 30 Leaders Under 30 (2007), and, most recently, was dubbed one of the top young business leaders in New York by Crain's New York Business. He works in New York City.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 8, 2010
    Two hauntingly similar boys take starkly different paths in this searing tale of the ghetto. Moore, an investment banker, Rhodes scholar, and former aide to Condoleezza Rice, was intrigued when he learned that another Wes Moore, his age and from the same area of Greater Baltimore, was wanted for killing a cop. Meeting his double and delving into his life reveals deeper likenesses: raised in fatherless families and poor black neighborhoods, both felt the lure of the money and status to be gained from dealing drugs. That the author resisted the criminal underworld while the other Wes drifted into it is chalked up less to character than to the influence of relatives, mentors, and expectations that pushed against his own delinquent impulses, to the point of exiling him to military school. Moore writes with subtlety and insight about the plight of ghetto youth, viewing it from inside and out; he probes beneath the pathologies to reveal the pressures—poverty, a lack of prospects, the need to respond to violence with greater violence—that propelled the other Wes to his doom. The result is a moving exploration of roads not taken.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2010
    A story about two young African-American men who share the same name and grew up on the same inner-city streets, but wound up in vastly different places.

    Author Wes Moore, a Rhodes Scholar, former Army officer and White House Fellow, works in investment banking. The other Wes Moore, a drug dealer, is imprisoned for life. Both are in their early 30s. Upon reading about the other Wes's 2000 conviction for armed robbery, the author wondered how the lives of two youths growing up in the same time (1990s) and place (Baltimore) could take such divergent paths. Drawing on conversations with the other Wes and interviews, the author creates an absorbing narrative that makes clear the critical roles that choices, family support and luck play in young people's lives. The other Wes never knew his father, had a drug-pusher older brother and began dealing at an early age. His mother's efforts to help were ineffectual. Often arrested—car theft, attempted murder, etc.—the other Wes dropped out of school, fathered four children and tried unsuccessfully to go straight. Then he took part in the store hold-up. The author faced similar challenges, he writes, but had enormous family support and several lucky breaks. He grew up with a devoted mother and two sisters; his father died when the author was very young. In 1984, the family moved to the crack-plagued Bronx to live with his caring grandparents, a minister and a teacher. When the author slipped into the local street life and began receiving poor grades at a private school, his family pooled limited resources and sent him away to a military academy. There he found positive role models, became a cadet commander and star athlete and gained a sense of purpose. Later, with help from several mentors, he earned a bachelor's degree at Johns Hopkins and attended Oxford."With no intervention—or the wrong intervention—[young boys] can be lost forever," the author warns.

    A testament to the importance of youth mentoring; includes an afterword by Tavis Smiley and a guide to more than 200 youth-service groups nationwide.

    (COPYRIGHT (2010) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2010
    In this memoir, Moore tells the story of his life as a child of Baltimore and the Bronx, an army officer in Afghanistan, a Rhodes Scholar, and a former White House Fellow. In detailing his journey from troubled adolescence to successful business career, he focuses on the intriguing concept of chronicling not only his life but that of another young man with the same name, from the same city, and roughly about the same age-the other Wes Moore. Drugs, violence, and prison marked the life of the other Wes Moore, now serving a life sentence for the murder of a police officer. The author, after meeting the man who shares his name, gives us a book that details the parallel lives of these two boys, coming of age the hard way in the 1980s and 1990s. The author includes a list of over 200 organizations dedicated to helping American youth. VERDICT With its unique spin on the memoir genre, this engaging and insightful book ultimately asks the reader to consider the ways in which we as a nation alternately support and fail American children. The charismatic author and the publisher's nationwide publicity plans should make this a popular book for general readers interested in memoir, African American studies, or social issues. [See Prepub Alert, "LJ" 1/10.]Julie Biando Edwards, Univ. of Montana, Missoula, Lib.

    Copyright 2010 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here Praise for The Other Wes Moore

    "Moving and inspiring, The Other Wes Moore is a story for our times."
  • Juan Williams, author of Enough "A tense, compelling story and an inspirational guide for all who care about helping young people."
  • Geoffrey Canada, author of Fist Stick Knife Gun "This should be required reading for anyone who is trying to understand what is happening to young men in our inner cities."
  • Ben Carson, M.D., author of Gifted Hands "The Other Wes Moore gets to the heart of the matter on faith, education, respect, the hard facts of incarceration, and the choices and challenges we all face. It's educational and inspiring."
  • William S. Cohen, former U.S. senator and secretary of defense "Wes Moore is destined to become one of the most powerful and influential leaders of this century. You need only read this book to understand why."
  • Tavis Smiley, from the Afterword "This intriguing narrative is enlightening, encouraging, and empowering. Read these words, absorb their meanings, and create your own plan to act and leave a legacy."
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