How We Fight for Our Lives

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Saeed Jones's memoir of growing up gay and black in the South, as well as thriving socially and creatively in college.

Does every poet have a good memoir in them? How We Fight For Our Lives goes right up on that shelf with The Liars' Club, Just Kids, etc. Jones's writing is unrelentingly intense, refreshing when it comes to topics like puberty (No other story I've encountered treats it like the steamrolling, world-altering force it is to an 11-year-old.) This is a wild ride that circles back home rather nicely. I don't know if there's an annual award for best last line in a book, but this would be in the running.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for the ARC in exchange for this review.
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Throughout his life, Saeed Jones has had to carve a place for himself in a community and country that rejects young, gay, black men. With a poet's turn of phrase, he explores in this memoir his coming of age, struggles within his family, exploring his sexuality, and more. His writing is beautifully raw and honest; this book will draw you in from the very beginning. What a voice!
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In “How We Fight For Our Lives” by Saeed Jones we get to see the life of Saeed through his eyes – a black, gay man from the South.  There are struggles and triumphs, love and anguish as he navigates through his late twenties.

I received an ARC of this book and this is my honest review.
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I'd heard a lot about this book and was thrilled to get a chance to read it! Jones is very candid and has a writing style that sucked me in from the start. Definitely a worthwhile and thought-provoking read!
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How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a gift this memoir. Poignant, lyrical, brutal, tender, overwhelming, honest, are just a few words to describe this memoir, but not enough to do it justice. Highly recommend everyone reading and experiencing these stories for themselves. I look forward to reading more of Saeed Jones’ writing.

Thank you to Netgalley for the advance copy. I’m still going to buy a hardcover, it was that good.

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I didn’t know what to expect going into this, but I’m officially in love with Saeed’s writing style. It was raw, witty, and so relatable. I also experienced adolescents in the Dallas suburbs and struggled with my grandparent’s relationship with religion as well. I appreciated how honest and open he was about his sexuality without censoring his language.
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Really well written and fascinating memoir, particularly enjoyed it as an audiobook as the author narrates! Highly recommend!
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How We Fight For Our Lives is a marvelous memoir written in chapters that function as individual essays. Saeed Jones tells us about growing up a gay Black boy in Texas, his relationships with his mother and grandmother, and his age of exploration as a young man in college. A coming-of-age memoir, it is also the story of his love for his mother and how she shaped him.

One of the most shocking moments in the memoir is when his grandmother takes him to church. It’s clear she has talked to the pastor, expressing her concern that her young grandson is too worldly (too gay) and asking him to pray for him. The pastor calls down illness upon his mother because her Buddhist faith is blamed for his problems. Since his mother had heart problems, this seemed impossibly wrong. It is not bad enough the world is against him for being Black and being gay, his family is failing him, too.

He describes this so delicately, “People don’t just happen. We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The “I” it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, “I am no longer yours.” My grandmother and I, without knowing it, were faithfully following a script that had already been written for us. A woman raises a boy into a man, loving him so intensely that her commitment finally repulses him.”

Of course, your family is family and forgiveness can be found…even when people don’t ask for it.

How We Fight For Our Lives is beautifully written. Jones has a poet’s felicity with language. His writing is beautiful. At times it is brutal as when he talks about his risk-taking sexual adventures. Other times it is delicate, as in the description of what passed with his grandmother. It is always honest and blunt.

I am not a straight white woman and Jones is a gay Black man. We are biographical antipodes, but he writes so well, it does not matter. I loved his stories. I admire his compassion and his drive to succeed. He dreamed of going to New York City, but when he could not afford the tuition for NYU, he adjusted, seeking a school that gave him a full scholarship and deferring the New York dream to his postgraduate career. This is a mature man, a wise man, and he wrote a loving memoir of his family and of fighting for his life.

I received an e-galley of How We Fight For Our Lives from the publisher through NetGalley
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I devoured this book over the course of one morning. Jones's prose is powerful and moving. His account of growing up as a gay black man in contemporary America is a must-read.
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Quite possibly my favorite read of the year. Having read some of the authors poetry before this, it felt getting to know the author on another level. I have been recommending this one left and right. I think everyone would benefit from reading this book.
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Startling read that left me breathless and uncomfortable in my own skin. Powerful and moving memoir I won’t soon forget.
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HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is Jones' memoir about coming of age as a black gay man in the South. Told through vignettes that follow his travels from home in Texas, to college, and elsewhere, it examines his life against the backdrop of phobias and -isms that run rampant in America. 

This book is 200 pages worth of a punch to the chest. Each story knocked the air out of me, even as someone who has read plenty of wrenching memoirs. It's Jones' exploration of his experience and the world's experience of his marginalized body, and how he turns his body into a weapon to be used against the world and against himself. 

Threaded through this journey is Jones' relationships with his mother and grandmother. I think the complicated, intensely loving relationships of half-truths he lives with both these women will feel so very familiar to many queer readers.
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In lyrical language, Saeed Jones chronicles his coming-of-age as a black, gay youth in Texas in the 1990s. The only child of a single mother, he knew that, despite his mother’s fierce love for him, his sexuality was a topic they couldn’t discuss. That might have been preferable to his grandmother’s approach. When he visited her in Memphis, she complained he was too worldly and forced him to the front of her church so the preacher could pray over him. That left the library, where the books about gay men always ended in AIDS. He already knew the dangers of being black; now he knew the consequences of being gay as well. Still, he was determined to live his truth, even if that meant distancing himself from those closest to him.

What that truth was, though, often remained unclear as Jones felt cultural, peer, and familial pressures to adopt other identities. As he progressed through school, then college, he switched between selves, at times putting himself at psychic risk and at times at physical risk. Yet, there is a sense that he required these experiences, a type of trial and error of behavior, to arrive at a place of peace.

Jones writes of these experiences with rawness and vulnerability, and at times I was incensed on his behalf, worried and angry that he put himself at such risk, saddened by his grief, and delighted by his good fortune. These reactions testify to his ability to convey his very self in his narrative, an act that takes not only skill but bravery. On one level, How We Fight for Our Lives is worth reading because of Jones’s story and how beautifully he conveys it. Yet, his memoir goes beyond his own experiences, echoing with themes of race and sexuality, questioning the strictures placed on those who don’t fit into the dominant paradigm and showing how damaging that can be.

A must-read for anyone interested in LGBT books or who enjoys reading spectacularly crafted memoirs and non-fiction.
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I had a face of shock while reading this book. Saaed Jones did not hold back writing about his experiences as a gay black man. When I was not in shock, I was immersed in feelings of sadness reading about being called slurs, not being accepted by close family members, and his mother's death. A good and quick read.  Check it out if you are a black gay male or have recently experienced the loss of your mom.
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The most powerful part of this short memoir is the moment in which Saeed’s grandmother forces young Saeed to be “saved“ by having a minster invoke pain and misery upon his non-present Buddhist mother. The grandmother sacrifices her own daughter for the salvation/conversion of her grandchild. For the rest of the book I prayed that Saeed’s mother would not come to misfortune or ill health. 

This, ultimately, is the narrative arc of this book: A boy comes into his own on the abandoned, exhausted, ravaged body of his mother. Lots of what goes on in between is a necessary coming-of-age. The price all children pay for their adulthood is the betrayal of their parents.

This is the biggest emotional toll the book requires of the reader: this awareness we all have that growing up to be autonomous beings required betraying the vital bond with our mothers and fathers.

Saeed negotiates this betrayal by savaging his body. He trashes himself by giving himself away to serial casual lovers some of whom are overtly racist. 

There is a lot of self-hatred inside the hearts of this gay black man in America. Jones describes his battle with self-hatred with great emotional honesty. 

Yet he survives, and thrives, and we hope he is well.
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How We Fight For Our Lives is a slim memoir by the poet Saeed Jones. The prose alone is worth reading. This memoir is about Jones as a African American man coming out in the South and all it’s implications. 

More than a coming out story this is a very beautiful story of the relationship he has with his single mother. There were multiple times that Jones captured that relationship with such care and tenderness that I sighed. 

This memoir is just plain good. If you just love reading about people, which I do, then this book is just perfect. I personally love getting a glimpse of other people’s lives and this definitely hit that spot. 

Thank you NetGalley and Simon and Schuster for an Advanced Reader’s Copy in exchange for an honest review.
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Beautiful, gripping, if sometimes graphic, coming of age memoir about growing into your sexuality, coming out, and the capacity for forgiveness and grace in family relationships. Jones' writing is urgent and raw when he writes about his vivid memories of being young, black, and gay in the south. Unlike anything I've read in a while.
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This book may not be easy to read, but it's real and important. The writing is beautiful and I can't wait to see more from Jones.
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I loved this book. From the first chapters, I was haunted. Jones examines his upbringing as a black, gay boy in Texas and how it affected the way he explored his sexuality as he grew into the man he is today. At the heart of the story, though, is his relationship with his mother, how they went through life as a sort of dynamic duo before his sexual orientation threatened to tear them apart. Their relationship is so moving and the ultimate display of how those we love and who love us shape who we become.

The sex scenes are quite graphic, but Jones definitely put his all into being as honest as possible. It isn't so much about the sex itself, but a reflection on what drove his behavior and how it impacted his psyche. Rather than these scenes being fodder for shock value, they are often the most haunting, the most emotionally raw. These scenes are at the core of how Saeed Jones became such a fiercely intellectual, affective person.

The language Jones uses is conversational, yet incredibly poetic (his poetry collection PRELUDE TO BRUISE is equally shattering and shimmering). I found myself wanting to highlight sentences and paragraphs constantly because of the way they struck my soul with compassion and understanding. His description of casual racism and the way it infiltrates our culture and becomes internalized by those it's aimed towards was gut-wrenching at times. How Jones has been able to turn it into a tool for his writing to such magnificent effect, I will never understand. 

This book needs to become required reading. Blending heartbreak, triumph, love, and identity is often done, but not often as well. It is even rarer to find a memoir that accomplishes and encompasses so much with such deft ability.
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Thank you to Simon & Schuster and Net Galley for this ARC, out 10/8!

How We Fight For Our Lives was one of the best memoirs I've read this year, and in a lot of ways is unlike any memoir I've read before.  It is so effortlessly beautiful and painful that I couldn't put it down, but had to intermittently so that I could process everything I was reading.  It is so easy to breeze through this book because Jones' writing flows so well, but there are so many moments that are so relatable or just plain heavy that require re-reading or just sitting with the words and letting them sink in.  This memoir was on par with and reminded me of Heavy in a lot of ways (writing to/about their mothers), but also is completely different.  I really loved the way that these stories were told in vignettes with times and places attached to them, so you could visual what was happening even more.  I was sad for it to be over, and wish that this had been longer so that I could keep learning and getting lost in Jones' world.  I'm so thankful that I was able to read this early. thankful to Jones for telling his story, and truly think it is one of the best memoirs put out this year.
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