How We Fight for Our Lives

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

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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I'm trying to conjure words to describe this INCREDIBLE book... all I want to say is READ IT over and over as my review. Is that a review?
That's my review.
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This memoir recounts the coming of age of an African American youth in the 1990s. The writer, Jones, has an evangelical grandmother who rejects his sexuality, his being, and a Buddist mother who loves him but at the same time has trouble communicating with him. His memoir covers adolescence into graduate school; these are years of self-discovery, intellectual development, and sexual experimentation as he recognizes his homosexuality and wonders if others will understand him. Jones's ecstatic discovery of pleasure is juxtaposed with occasional violent and humiliating encounters.  

How We Fight for Our Lives is emotionally resonant and a searing personal interrogation. Some readers will see themselves in the stories of Jones' burgeoning eroticism and eventual self-acceptance.
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Read at your own risk and I mean that in a good way. 

In Saeed Jones’ memoir, How We Fight for Our Lives, Jones shares his struggles and provides a narrative of on his journey to self-destructive, all while trying to find his place in the world. This story is raw uncensored & unapologetic. I’m not kidding prepare yourself for what you are about to read, Jones doesn’t hold back. 

Throughout the book, Jones describes the various relationships and people in his life from his mother and sexual partners. I think my jaw dropped at least 50 times. He endured so much mentally & physically but conquered even more. I can’t praise this book enough. It’s an absolute must read. 

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for gifting me a copy of this book.
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You probably know Saeed from BuzzFeed’s AM/DM show, or his poetry (which I am now going to have to find, bc I didn’t know about the poetry.) This is about him growing up and realizing he was a black gay boy in the south, his relationship with his mother (and also to some degree his grandmother). He writes gorgeously and in some cases, heartbreakingly. This is an ARC, and is due out in October; I highly recommend picking it up when it does.
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I was ready to give 5 stars to this book right in the beginning. It is no joke: Saeed's book grabbed my attention and kept me hocked during my entire reading. Raw, painful and beautiful, I feel honored to live in a time where an author like him works on writing such an important memoir.

Thanks NetGalley and Simon Schuster for this incredible ARC.
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Many thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC of this book. What a beautiful memoir from Saeed Jones. Coming of age, coming out, relationships with family, a son and his single mother. Racism, homophobia - external and internal. Without giving away any real spoilers, I must say it was genius of him to use his sex scenes to talk about the horror of racism. And throughout the book his Mom shines through which makes me miss my own Mom. What a brave young man to share his experiences with us. Very real.
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A question I start off with when leading a book discussion group is "What struck you about this book?"

For this book, I have to's raw. Saeed, in his memoir, lays his heart open to the public. He doesn't hold back.

From the Polaroid at the start to Barcelona, his story, his life has taught me more about the power of empathy. He has laid his heart bare to the world, and it provided me with food for thought in how a black boy can be afraid of the world around him. (Add quote later...the last sentence from chapter 3.)

Saeed shows his turmoil and provides narrative on behaviors that I would term as self-destructive, as he tries to find his place in the world. He quotes Reginald Shepherd "My aim is to rescue some portion of the drowned and drowning, including always myself." This quote resonates with the author and, I feel, with the place of this memoir. 

The Ferocity does describe Saeed well. He lives his life, despite the fears he may have or the drops of acidic words that have come his way.

Saeed's mother... She worked hard to provide and protect her child. She is dearly missed and the love radiates from this memoir. Since her story is so intertwined with this, I don't want to say more, other than I recommend the book.

I do, highly, recommend the book. It caused me discomfort, as I am a polar opposite to this gentleman. However, the life he presents provided an impetus for me to reflect and empathize with him. 

I can't provide any quotes at this time, as I was granted the ability to review from an advanced reader's copy courtesy of the publisher. Since it was listed as an uncorrected proof, I will comply with the request to not quote until verified with the finished book.
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This was such a gorgeous and painful read. Saeed’s voice is one that we desperately need in this day and age. I loved this book fiercely and I can’t wait until it is released so that the whole world can read it. I wish it was longer because Saeed’s writing is so fluid and poetic that you just float in it like a river over honey. This is one that I will read again for years to come.
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How We Fight For Our Lives is a memoir of Saeed Jones, and is a coming-of-age story about growing up as a black gay man in Texas. It is poignant and raw, and left me crying at the end of it. It’s evident that Jones is a poet as the way he writes is unique in the best way. Its written as a tribute to his mother, and sheds light on how our families can be both the easiest and hardest things in our lives. He captures his humanity in a way I’ve never seen before, and I finished the book wanting more from him. The vignettes he writes spanning his childhood to his adulthood highlights some of the most wonderful and some of the most heartbreaking moments of his life. His lyrical prose and clear insight on life left me breathless.
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Saeed Jones writes like someone older than his 33 years.  He writes like someone who has seen some things, which he has.  And he writes about those things with a beauty and rawness that had me sobbing like a baby for the last section of his new memoir.  Mr. Jones does not pull any punches.  He writes about his life in vivid detail, leaving nothing to the imagination.  His experiences give you an inside glimpse of what it is like to grow up as a gay black man in America.  How fraught that life can be when navigating his sexuality in a society that thinks he doesn't deserve to exist, much less be happy.

As I read Mr. Jones's novel, I thought about all of the black men I know who had to take this same journey.  How do they manage their relationships with their families, their religious beliefs, or partners?  How do they deal with white men who treat them as fantasy and nothing else?  Most of all, I thought about how they dealt with the fear of being themselves in our current climate.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to readers who want to be more open minded and learn about the black experience from a gay man's perspective.  But I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a damn good book.  Saeed Jones is already known for his poetry, but his memoir is a gorgeous account of a life that is still being transformed.
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I've been an avid follower of Saeed Jones on social media and enjoy him on AM2DM, and was eagerly awaiting his memoir. To say it does not disappoint is an understatement. Lyrical, poetic, brutal, yet tender, no doubt HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES will go down as one of the very best memoirs of the year. I already cannot wait for Jones's next book.
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This book knocked the wind out of me. It is a beautiful memoir encompassing the consequences of a prejudiced society. It also deals with emotions and fears that most of us are too afraid to let out. It was raw and heartbreaking.
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I honestly don't know what to say about this beautifully written, moving memoir.  Saeed Jones shares memories of his childhood and formative years that made my heart just hurt for him.  From his earliest memory of being called a "fag" to his feelings of shame and perceived rejection from his grandmother he is brutally honest about his fear and anger in his life. His realization in high school that "being black can get you killed. Being gay can get you killed. Being a black gay boy is a death wish," just made me want to weep for our country and any young people in it that are still struggling with their identity.
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It brings me great pain and joy to know Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives will be set upon us all. Pain for the collective loss and sorrow gay black boys have suffered, and joy in knowing that it is stories like these that will set us free.

It’s been a month since I read Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives, and I fumbled so long to put words to its visceral glamour. When I first heard of its arrival over the winter, I needed it immediately. To imagine the amount of blood, sweat, and tears Saeed must’ve sacrificed to saturate these pages is beyond me. What emerges from that offering is a story of a gay boy coming into the blackness of his body, its starkest desires and demands, and an anthem of unsung single black mothers who must raise their boys to be their own saviors before it’s too late.

Front to back, no other book has echoed so much of my own experience as a gay black boy like this. It took no effort at all to read Saeed’s story with an empathetic heart because I have been living this story in real time. There were so many instances I caught myself saying, “I know what that feels like too” and “Yes. Yes, that was me! That’s STILL me!”

"You never forget your first 'faggot.' Because the memory, in its way, makes you. It becomes a spine for the body of anxieties and insecurities that will follow, something to hang all that meat on. Before you were just scrawny; now you're scrawny because you're a faggot. Before you were just bookish; now you're bookish because you're a faggot.

Soon, bullies won't even have to say the word. Nor will friends, as they start to sit at different lunch tables without explanation. There will already be a voice in your head whispering 'faggot' for them."

I was pricked with my first N-word assault by another white boy whose vestige still haunts me in the faces of white men wanting to be friends, lovers, or bringers of harm. I watched my mother’s smile dissolve in the face of financial and spiritual uncertainty, and the tenacity with which she raged at every whisper of my sexuality and my little brother’s autism. I, too, have submitted to the dehumanizing fetishes of white men that can drive a vulnerable black boy to hate himself and others like him. I know the sting of falling for straight men capable of nothing more than breaking our hearts if not our whole being. And above all, I still tussle with the prodigious fear of a lonely, loveless life because of who I was born to be.
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HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is a triumph of the human spirit. Poetic, gripping, and a must-read for the summer.
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I hardly ever say this, but this book was too short--I wanted more! Saeed Jones is a fantastic storyteller, even when he is telling stories that are heartbreaking and difficult to read. His vignettes about finding his place as a young, gay black man from the South are powerful and vivid. There are age-old adages about how literature helps us understand others, and How We Fight for Our Lives is a window into experiences that are completely unlike my own.

I wanted more because the vignettes left some things out. Roughly 2/3 of the way through the memoir, Jones frames a traumatic event as a turning point for him. We're only given bits and pieces of how his thinking and behavior changed after this event, so I wanted to hear this part of the story, too. 

The memoir ends in 2011, which seems like an odd stopping point for a very young man's story. Jones was born in 1985, so 2011-2019 is roughly a quarter of his life. I understand why he chose to end this memoir where he did, but I also wonder how he has grown since then.

Four stars. Read How We Fight for Our Lives if you're interested in a powerful account of the author's intersectional experience. (Readers should be forewarned that some content is graphic.)

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for giving me a DRC of this book, which will be available for purchase on October 8th.
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This is a gorgeous memoir about growing up gay and black in the south, about knowing that the odds are against you and trying to carve a space for yourself in a world where “being a black gay boy is a death wish.”

For Saeed Jones, forging his identity was about more than just coming out, it was about living authentically in all the many ways—and about the painful journey of finding out what that even meant.

Jones’ life takes him from Texas, where as a young teenager he discovered his sexuality, to Kentucky where he went to college and embraced his budding sense of self, to New York City where he currently resides as a poet. The raw and candid content of his memories is conveyed in powerful, lyrical prose that leave a searing impression.

While the primary focus is Jone’s own coming of age, this striking memoir also serves as a touching tribute to his mother, who raised him by herself.
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