Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Other Wes Moore

I highly recommend Wes Moore's The Other Wes Moore. The author happened to discover that someone with the same name and roughly the same age, who had lived not too far away from a neighborhood he used to live in, was sentenced to life in prison. He ended up meeting him, and the book is a reflection on how one Wes Moore escaped his environment and became very successful while the other did not.

He pulls no punches, either about himself or the other Wes Moore. They were both fatherless, both got into trouble as youths, and they both made terrible and sometimes violent mistakes. In the critical early teen years, however, one was pushed into a better direction.

The ultimate question, of course, is why? Why did one become a Rhodes Scholar and the other a lifetime resident of a maximum security prison? He probes that, but is not really sure himself so lets the reader ponder that. Some of it clearly boils down to contacts--do you know someone who can offer you good advice and suggest someone else to call? One Wes Moore did (in his case, suggestions for a military school to attend as a way to get out of his low-performing high school) and the other did not.

He's a good writer, and I really got sucked into the book.  A lot of it is sad, not the least of which was the fact that the imprisoned Wes Moore had four children in rapid succession just before being convicted--the cycle of poverty and violence is depressing. It would be so easy to give platitudes, or easy sounding answers, but he refuses to do so.


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