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How We Fight For Our Lives

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From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. “People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “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.’ ” Haunt From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. “People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “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.’ ” Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves. Blending poetry and prose, Jones has developed a style that is equal parts sensual, beautiful, and powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one of a kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.


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From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. “People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “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.’ ” Haunt From award-winning poet Saeed Jones, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir written at the crossroads of sex, race, and power. “People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “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.’ ” Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves. Blending poetry and prose, Jones has developed a style that is equal parts sensual, beautiful, and powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one of a kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.

30 review for How We Fight For Our Lives

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    In his astonishing, unparalleled memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones writes of making his body into a weapon, a fierce thing that can cut. In these pages, Jones also makes language into a fierce, cutting weapon. How We Fight For Our Lives is a coming of age story, it is a love letter to a black single mother, it is an indictment of our culture that creates so little space for gay men to learn how to be who they truly are. Most of all, this memoir is a rhapsody in the truest sense of In his astonishing, unparalleled memoir, How We Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones writes of making his body into a weapon, a fierce thing that can cut. In these pages, Jones also makes language into a fierce, cutting weapon. How We Fight For Our Lives is a coming of age story, it is a love letter to a black single mother, it is an indictment of our culture that creates so little space for gay men to learn how to be who they truly are. Most of all, this memoir is a rhapsody in the truest sense of the word, fragments of epic poetry woven together so skillfully, so tenderly, so brutally, that you will find yourself aching in the way only masterful writing can make a person ache. How We Fight For Our Lives is that rare book that will show you what it means to be needful, to be strong, to be gloriously human and fighting for your life.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    I'm not sure how to rate this book.  The author writes beautifully and the second part of the book is pretty much a song of love and gratitude towards his mother.  5 stars for the second part. The first part?  Well.! What the heck is it with some of these coming out memoirs by gay men that have to tell you about all the dick they've had???  As a lesbian, I definitely do not enjoy hearing about dick.  This book was similar to I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put I'm not sure how to rate this book.  The author writes beautifully and the second part of the book is pretty much a song of love and gratitude towards his mother.  5 stars for the second part. The first part?  Well.! What the heck is it with some of these coming out memoirs by gay men that have to tell you about all the dick they've had???  As a lesbian, I definitely do not enjoy hearing about dick.  This book was similar to I Can't Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I've Put My Faith in Beyoncé, another coming out memoir by a young black man that described a lot of sex acts.  I can appreciate and identify with the questions and insecurities of growing up gay and feeling you're different.  Worrying that people will hate you if they find out.  Wondering if there is something inherently bad and wrong about you.  Had Saeed Jones left it at those questions and feelings, I would have liked this book more.  I don't see the need to talk graphically about having many sex partners, whether someone is gay, straight, or lesbian.  Unless you're writing porn (which is fine if it's labelled as such) then I don't see the merit in adding graphic sex situations. That was a big turn-off (ha ha!) for me with this book.  Mr. Jones talks a little about the Black experience too, and I appreciated learning about the specific challenges for a gay Black man in America.  I also loved reading about his mother, how he felt about her, their relationship that appeared strong and yet it was never clear whether she fully accepted his sexuality.   4 stars, though it would have been 5 if not for so much dick talk.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nenia ⚔️ Queen of Villainy ⚔️ Campbell

    Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is such a great memoir. It's everything a "good" memoir should be-- sensual, moving, thoughtful, provoking, erotic, intense, and unique-- but it also opens up many meaningful discussions and dialogues about what it means to be black, what it means to be gay, what it means to be both, and how it feels to be part of a group that is singled out, even from within members of each disparate community (hence the ever- Instagram || Twitter || Facebook || Amazon || Pinterest HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES is such a great memoir. It's everything a "good" memoir should be-- sensual, moving, thoughtful, provoking, erotic, intense, and unique-- but it also opens up many meaningful discussions and dialogues about what it means to be black, what it means to be gay, what it means to be both, and how it feels to be part of a group that is singled out, even from within members of each disparate community (hence the ever-important need for intersectionality in political movements). Saeed is a really great memoirist. His writing is gorgeous and flows. This is one of the first memoirs I've read in a while that almost feels like fiction, in that the author is able to distance himself from, well, himself, and write personally and honestly about his experiences without making you feel like he's trying to apologize for being the way he is or offer some sort of narrative direction. It makes the memoir feel really personal, and at the same time, you also feel like you're watching a story unfold. I don't really have any complaints about this book. Some people have said that they did not like Saeed's choices (I can kind of guess which ones), but experience makes us who we are. I'm pretty hard to shock at this point, and felt like this memoir was very tame compared to others I have read. I liked how he melded his story with the concerns many people have with regard to racism and discrimination, and the parts about his mother were heart-wrenching. Definitely a must-read for those looking for great new books by black and/or LGBT+ authors. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!   4 to 4.5 stars

  4. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    Tell me more, please! 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 becaus Tell me more, please! 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    High 4 stars How We Fight For Our Lives is a powerful short memoir. Saeed Jones is gay and black. He grew up in Texas with a single mother Buddhist convert who suffered from congenital heart disease. This memoir spans Jones’ life from ages 12 to 25. Jones gives his readers a raw taste of his life in that time span, including the rough ride he got from peers in high school and his successful but self-destructive self-reinvention as a student in at a small college in Kentucky. Jones also delves int High 4 stars How We Fight For Our Lives is a powerful short memoir. Saeed Jones is gay and black. He grew up in Texas with a single mother Buddhist convert who suffered from congenital heart disease. This memoir spans Jones’ life from ages 12 to 25. Jones gives his readers a raw taste of his life in that time span, including the rough ride he got from peers in high school and his successful but self-destructive self-reinvention as a student in at a small college in Kentucky. Jones also delves into the strong bond with his mother and the fractious relationship with the rest of his family. I loved Jones’ honesty. I also loved that he is not self-flattering or self-pitying. I especially loved the last part in which he deals so honestly with the grief of losing his mother at 25. I hope Jones produces other segments of his life in memoir form. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an opportunity to read an advance copy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    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 tea 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. Thanks, Simon & Schuster friends, for sending me this remarkable book — and Saeed Jones, for sharing your light with the world. ❤️ If you liked my review, feel free to follow me @parisperusing on Instagram.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Malia

    I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a shor I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a short book, but I think it will stay with me for some time to come. Thanks to Netgalley for supplying me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Very, very good. Review to come.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    This book is soooo good. Saeed Jones is a force. His skills as a poet is fully evident in the prose of this book. Sexuality. Humanity. Blackness. Family. Grief. It’s all in here. He is vulnerable and he is genius and just wow!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sahitya

    Wow ... I didn’t know what I was expecting from this memoir but this was so much more. It’s the story of the author’s life told by navigating through important moments of his life and the ultimate thread overall is his relationship with his beloved single mother. You can clearly see Jones is a poet because even his prose is stunningly beautiful and evocative - literally brimming with feelings like desperation, confusion, longing, fear and grief - and listening to the audiobook in his own voice b Wow ... I didn’t know what I was expecting from this memoir but this was so much more. It’s the story of the author’s life told by navigating through important moments of his life and the ultimate thread overall is his relationship with his beloved single mother. You can clearly see Jones is a poet because even his prose is stunningly beautiful and evocative - literally brimming with feelings like desperation, confusion, longing, fear and grief - and listening to the audiobook in his own voice brings even more life to it. I thought his particular fear about the ramifications of being both Black and gay was very palpable in his words and I could feel it myself. It really broke my heart. I was so lost in his words that I didn’t realize it was already over, and I just wanted to know more. This memoir truly deserves all the accolades it’s getting across the community and I hope everyone picks this up. I’m not much of a poetry reader but I definitely wanna go back and checkout his previous award winning poetry books.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    I worried because of Jones's background in poetry that his memoir might be too abstract, too poem-like for me. But absolutely not. The prose is powerful, clean, laser-sharp in terms of imagery and theme. If anything, the fault with this book is that it's too short. The writing's so good, I just wanted more of it. It begins as the story of a black boy in Texas (age 12 or 13), a black gay boy in Texas, and how that makes Jones feel both alone and terrified of society (and justifiably so). Then the I worried because of Jones's background in poetry that his memoir might be too abstract, too poem-like for me. But absolutely not. The prose is powerful, clean, laser-sharp in terms of imagery and theme. If anything, the fault with this book is that it's too short. The writing's so good, I just wanted more of it. It begins as the story of a black boy in Texas (age 12 or 13), a black gay boy in Texas, and how that makes Jones feel both alone and terrified of society (and justifiably so). Then the memoir traces his life through high school, into college on the speech and debate team at Western Kentucky, and into the field of teaching and writing. But a great deal of the memoir is about his relationships with his mother and his grandmother, both strong, but very different women. Such a powerful memoir. It's no surprise this just won the Kirkus Prize.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tucker (TuckerTheReader)

    is it illegal to give a book five stars before even reading it? | Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram is it illegal to give a book five stars before even reading it? | Goodreads | Blog | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube | Instagram

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cortney

    So many thoughts but I’m going to keep them to myself since this is his real life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    I read in one sitting, and woo this is one of those memoirs that will live with me forever. It’s raw and powerful and it’s out in October, and if you’re a fan of memoirs definitely have this one on your radar. He’s also one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    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 so intimate to use his sexual experiences as a platform for 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 experi 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 so intimate to use his sexual experiences as a platform for 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tori (InToriLex)

    A wonderful exploration of what it means to learn who you are while facing the dangerousness of being black and gay. Saeed draws you in with quality prose and keeps you interested by walking you through his trauma so you can't look away.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    4.5/5 I strongly recommend the audio read by the author. His passages about his mother and their relationship will bring tears.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    What a truly incredible memoir! I devoured this in one sitting, couldn't put it down - couldn't turn the pages fast enough and really wanted more once I was finished. How We Fight For Our Lives is powerful, captivating, heart wrenching and also full of strength. I admire so much that these amazing humans allow us, complete strangers, to see into their world, to read their truth. This is a memoir everyone needs in their life. I highly encourage you to read this. Thank you so so much Simon & Schust What a truly incredible memoir! I devoured this in one sitting, couldn't put it down - couldn't turn the pages fast enough and really wanted more once I was finished. How We Fight For Our Lives is powerful, captivating, heart wrenching and also full of strength. I admire so much that these amazing humans allow us, complete strangers, to see into their world, to read their truth. This is a memoir everyone needs in their life. I highly encourage you to read this. Thank you so so much Simon & Schuster Canada for my review copy! I'm blown away!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laurene

    How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones is a raw wonderful memoir. He openly shares his intimate life experiences with his readers as he searches for understanding and healing in his life. On a personal note to Mr. Jones -- I hope one day you come across your soulmate who will love you for the person you truly are. "Moving out of your longtime home means quite literally unsettling the dust of your past. Dust shimmers in the air, coloring rays of sunshine as they cut through the windows. Dust How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones is a raw wonderful memoir. He openly shares his intimate life experiences with his readers as he searches for understanding and healing in his life. On a personal note to Mr. Jones -- I hope one day you come across your soulmate who will love you for the person you truly are. "Moving out of your longtime home means quite literally unsettling the dust of your past. Dust shimmers in the air, coloring rays of sunshine as they cut through the windows. Dust marks the outlines of where your childhood bed used to be. Dust collects in your hair. Your body unwittingly inhales your past and rejects its."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rachel León

    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? READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT. READ IT.... That's my review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Vivek Tejuja

    This book to some extent made me see the mirror. Saeed’s story isn’t very different from mine, though it is. His story of being bullied because he was “different” is the same as mine. The sense of being called a faggot, a homosexual, and to understand that you have to survive in a world of hate and the world that treats the “other” differently, isn’t easy to do so. I live it every day, and as a fellow gay man in that sense, I understand it even more. You have to fight and reclaim a lot, snatch e This book to some extent made me see the mirror. Saeed’s story isn’t very different from mine, though it is. His story of being bullied because he was “different” is the same as mine. The sense of being called a faggot, a homosexual, and to understand that you have to survive in a world of hate and the world that treats the “other” differently, isn’t easy to do so. I live it every day, and as a fellow gay man in that sense, I understand it even more. You have to fight and reclaim a lot, snatch even, and make your own terms to live and be respected for who you are. “How We Fight for Our Lives” by Saeed Jones is a memoir that has several layers to it. Of being gay. Of being a black man. Of growing up gay and black. I loved how Saeed depended on books while growing up (just as I did) and I could see how that made him embrace his desire, till he reaches college and unleashes himself both, physically and mentally. This book is a collection of reflections of his life, of loves, and losses, but more than anything else, it is his relationship with his mother and grandmother that hit me hard. The detailed sexual experiences that are noted are needed for people to understand what goes on in a world different from theirs. The honesty of the memoir is heartbreaking and often cuts through all prejudices. The language is emotional and makes you sit up and notice Jones’ life and the world in context. How We Fight for Our Lives is a memoir that is much needed in a time such as ours, to make us see that not everyone is the same, but everyone deserves the same respect, dignity, love, and the same opportunity irrespective of their orientation or skin colour.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Saeed Jones’ memoir is beautiful in its honesty and raw pain you can almost feel. It’s an intense, brutal, loving and heartbreaking rollercoaster ride of a book. He takes us on his journey as he grows into himself and discovers what it means to be a black man, a gay man and a gay black man (in the south, no less). You feel the hollowness as he talks about having to hide who he was. But among the pain in this book, you also feel the interminable love of a son for his mother. His writing is compel Saeed Jones’ memoir is beautiful in its honesty and raw pain you can almost feel. It’s an intense, brutal, loving and heartbreaking rollercoaster ride of a book. He takes us on his journey as he grows into himself and discovers what it means to be a black man, a gay man and a gay black man (in the south, no less). You feel the hollowness as he talks about having to hide who he was. But among the pain in this book, you also feel the interminable love of a son for his mother. His writing is compelling and poetic. He talks about using ‘pen as weapon, page as shield’ when he writes and that’s precisely what he has done in his memoir. He neither apologizes for who he is, nor does he gloss over his experiences to make himself look better. He talks about the racism and homophobia he experienced growing up in the south and how it shaped him as a young man. He discusses the fear and self loathing he felt and the outlets he used (both healthy and unhealthy) to cope with those feelings. He also talks about growing up with a single mother who worked her butt off to provide for her son and the deep bond they shared. This is a short memoir and if anything, I wish it had been a bit longer as I would have definitely been interested to hear more about some of his experiences. But overall, this is an incredibly powerful memoir that you don’t have to be gay, black or male to relate to and appreciate. I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Sullivan

    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 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. (Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.)

  24. 4 out of 5

    rosa guac

    beautiful, heart wrenching, and hopeful 😔🤙. memoirs are such a vulnerable invitation to one’s life and i’m so utterly grateful that saeed jones decided to write this. i couldn’t put this book down because it demands your attention in ways that not a lot of memoirs have the power to do so. how to write about pain and heartbreak in a way that confronts the absolute confusion that occurs when we are at our most overwhelmed. grab your tissues and make sure your make-up is waterproof, because saeed j beautiful, heart wrenching, and hopeful 😔🤙. memoirs are such a vulnerable invitation to one’s life and i’m so utterly grateful that saeed jones decided to write this. i couldn’t put this book down because it demands your attention in ways that not a lot of memoirs have the power to do so. how to write about pain and heartbreak in a way that confronts the absolute confusion that occurs when we are at our most overwhelmed. grab your tissues and make sure your make-up is waterproof, because saeed jones won’t hold back (and neither should you).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Charlott

    4,5 "Boys like us never really got away, it seemed. We just bought ourselves time. A few more gasps of air, a few more poems, a few more years. History hurt more than any weapon inflicted on us. It hit back harder than any weapon we could wield, any weapon we could ourselves turn into." For memoir-lovers 2019 has been a fantastic year - as @readrunsea also pointed out today in her review of Saeed Jones' How We Fight For Our Lives. Jones memoir specifically can be positioned within a pile of beauti 4,5 "Boys like us never really got away, it seemed. We just bought ourselves time. A few more gasps of air, a few more poems, a few more years. History hurt more than any weapon inflicted on us. It hit back harder than any weapon we could wield, any weapon we could ourselves turn into." For memoir-lovers 2019 has been a fantastic year - as @readrunsea also pointed out today in her review of Saeed Jones' How We Fight For Our Lives. Jones memoir specifically can be positioned within a pile of beautifully written, creatively structured, funny and heartbreaking memoirs about queer coming-of-age experiences such as T Kira Madden's Long Live The Tribe of Fatherless Girls and Tegan and Sara Quin's High School.  In his book, Jones writes vignettes about his life from 1998 to 2011. Taken together do these not only offer a glimpse into Jones growing into himself but also into the complex relationship to his family, in particular, his mother and grandmother so that in the end, this book is also a love letter to his chronically-ill single mother. Jones reflects on the measures he took to carve out his space as a Black gay man, the ways he used sex, the meaning of 'coming-out as gay' but maybe not actually 'coming out as yourself'. How We Fight For Our Lives is a book about silence, love, coping mechanisms, yearning, and grief and it is in equal parts bold and tender. Jones crafts beautiful sentences, brings you right into the scenes he dissects and pulls at your heartstrings. All in all, I loved this book though I wished for at least 20-30 pages more (but well, that is also a testament to how wonderful this memoir was).  From reading his poetry collection When the Only Light Is Fire in 2013 to reading now this wonderful memoir, Saeed Jones has earned a place among my favourite writers. 

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    “A friend told me once that after her father died, she cried so intensely, a blood vessel in one of her eyes burst. It had seemed like an impossible marvel when she told me at the time, but now I knew. Tears don’t always just fall; sometimes they rip through you, like storm painted gusts instead of mere raindrops.” . How we fight for our lives by Saeed Jones is hard for me to review, it was beautiful, wonderful, poetic, informative, and heartbreaking. The story is a love letter from Jones to himse “A friend told me once that after her father died, she cried so intensely, a blood vessel in one of her eyes burst. It had seemed like an impossible marvel when she told me at the time, but now I knew. Tears don’t always just fall; sometimes they rip through you, like storm painted gusts instead of mere raindrops.” . How we fight for our lives by Saeed Jones is hard for me to review, it was beautiful, wonderful, poetic, informative, and heartbreaking. The story is a love letter from Jones to himself as a gay black man, as well as a stunning eulogy to the life of the amazing single mother who raised him. . Told in short burst of time periods and places, from 1998-2011, from Texas to Kentucky to Memphis and back, Saeed tells his story, the tumultuous story of a young black gay boy becoming a man and finding himself and his sexuality through pained experiences and ones of shame and regret. He spares no details and fully informs the reader of everything , realizing at a young age that “being black can get you killed” “Being gay can get you killed” “Being a black gay boy is a deathwish” . . This book was very important to me as a straight white male because it intimately brought me into the life of a man very similar to myself in life but with two very contrasting differences, and from his unflinching poetic words Jones taught me so much and made me feel the experience that he has while growing up, this memoir is special, it’s gorgeous, it’s a rare find. Please do yourself a favor and let this mans words completely engulf you and break your heart.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    What an insight into growing up gay and black, with a Christian grandmother and a Buddhist mother. I understand why Saeed Jones titled his memoir How We Fight For Our Lives and it drives home the something that I tuned into in a book I read yesterday called From Lukov with Love, and that is that sometimes we lose "who we are" in order to satisfy others and who they want us to be. I felt for Saeed as a young black man and what he might have experienced in parts of the south, but to add being gay What an insight into growing up gay and black, with a Christian grandmother and a Buddhist mother. I understand why Saeed Jones titled his memoir How We Fight For Our Lives and it drives home the something that I tuned into in a book I read yesterday called From Lukov with Love, and that is that sometimes we lose "who we are" in order to satisfy others and who they want us to be. I felt for Saeed as a young black man and what he might have experienced in parts of the south, but to add being gay on top of that and having the two most influential people in his life being polar opposites must've been so difficult for him. During summers his mother would send him to stay with his grandmother, her mother. One of what I thought was the most horrifyingly embarrassing scenes in the book is when his grandmother had the pastor of her church pray for Saeed and he did so in front of the entire congregation. As if that wasn't bad enough, the pastor even prayed for bad to fall on his mother since her boy was gay...say what! That shocked me! The book is pretty explicit and tells more than I ever would want to know or ask about someone's growing up sexual experiences, if that is something that would offend you, this isn't for you. Recommendation: I think this memoir is an open, candid one, and one that is important to people of all sexual orientations.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Malia

    I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a shor I had listened to an interview with the author on an NPR podcast and it intrigued me enough to pick up this book. Jones has a very engaging style of writing that feels almost like fiction (in some cases, when he is abused for being gay you wish it were fiction!) It is strange to me, sometimes, when people who are still quite young - he is in his thirties - write memoirs, but Jones really does have an important and relevant story to tell and one that I am glad I had a chance to read. It is a short book, but I think it will stay with me for some time to come. Thanks to Netgalley for supplying me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.Find more reviews and bookish fun at http://www.princessandpen.com

  29. 4 out of 5

    Liv

    18 March 2020 09:51 How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones was another audible memoir, as you may have gathered by now, I am a huge fan of listening to memoirs narrated by the author in an audible version. Saeed Jones is a gay, black man in America who is also a poet. I'd actually never heard of him until he wrote this memoir, but he's also a poet and I really don't do poetry. His memoir focuses on themes of race, sexuality, body image and power as he details a coming-of-age memoir. For me, one 18 March 2020 09:51 How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones was another audible memoir, as you may have gathered by now, I am a huge fan of listening to memoirs narrated by the author in an audible version. Saeed Jones is a gay, black man in America who is also a poet. I'd actually never heard of him until he wrote this memoir, but he's also a poet and I really don't do poetry. His memoir focuses on themes of race, sexuality, body image and power as he details a coming-of-age memoir. For me, one the most powerful aspects of How We Fight For Our Lives was Saeed's interrogation of body image and what it meant to be black and gay. How he saw his own body, how those he was intimate with saw his body and whether that was about his race, his gender, the way he looked. He offered insight into how we often reduce people to a way they look and judge them based on the way they look. We have certain expectations of a person based on their race (especially) and there are many connotations particularly about black men that circulate. These preconceptions are only heightened by things like porn, the media etc. He also spoke at length about his relationship with his mother and their life growing up. He spoke about his mum's religion, their relationship, his exploration of his sexuality by going to drag shows with his mum's friends, her health, his coming out as gay. Many aspects of their relationship which were interesting, but he also showed a clear love, affection and happy relationship that he had with his mum. He also spoke about their financial struggles and how they impacted upon his college applications and where he was able to go, their worries about health care and being able to afford an ambulance to hospital for his mum, being afford to pay bills and whether her card would be rejected at the shops. It was very poignant how he spoke about the real struggles in his life and upbringing and how only when he mum died did he get money from her death. The audible version I thought was really accessible, really easy to listen to and very well narrated. I really enjoy listening to audible memoirs that are narrated by the author as it makes it a more personable story. Overall, I thought Saeed Jones touched on a lot of interesting topics, he was insightful, well-articulated and interesting. If you enjoy memoirs and/or are interested in discussions about race/sexuality then I would recommend this memoir!

  30. 4 out of 5

    David

    Since Saeed survived college, it is not a spoiler to be glad he is still with us today. This honest and open memoir paints a young gay black man who "wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life" as Thoreau would say. But real life has lots of obstacles and pitfalls. Saeed takes us from his early days, through high school, through college, and into his recent early years of work and writing. The book moves quickly. There is just enough reflection to see the thoughts and afterthoughts, Since Saeed survived college, it is not a spoiler to be glad he is still with us today. This honest and open memoir paints a young gay black man who "wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life" as Thoreau would say. But real life has lots of obstacles and pitfalls. Saeed takes us from his early days, through high school, through college, and into his recent early years of work and writing. The book moves quickly. There is just enough reflection to see the thoughts and afterthoughts, but the book never slows down. When my own mother passed away, I kept some things that are just simple reminders of her. Some of these items are just paper with her writing. She had such beautiful hand-writing. Saeed's mother wrote a story when she was young. When Saeed received it: Running my fingers over the pages, it wasn't the words so much as the handwriting itself that got me. My mother wrote in a kind of hybrid cursive, a flowing script that reminded me of the sketches fashion designers use to plan their collections. Then I remembered the notes she'd put in my lunch box every day in elementary school. Short one- or two-sentence messages written in that flowing script. I always ate the desert snack and threw away the sandwich, glaring at the lunch lady lording over the trash cans as she threatened to tell my mother. I couldn't remember what I did with those notes - if I shoved them into my pockets, if I dumped them in the trash too. Why hadn't I kept them? A good son would've kept them. I had so little of her handwriting left now. Stop, I'd eventually have to tell myself, just stop. I handed the notebook back to my grandmother. The past was a siren song, offering to give my mother back if I dared to make stories about her my sustenance. Whenever I tried, however, I quickly found myself dragged under by a riptide. A story became a memory became a guild-laced question before finally, there at the bottom of the sea, I'd find the same fact waiting for me: I was never going to see her again. This captured my feeling for my own mother so well.

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