Thursday, January 12, 2012
Book Review: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
Review by Tavares S. Carney
Roadblocks, Detours and Open Doors
Being the mother of a young, impressionable black male living in an urban area, I was intrigued by The Other Wes Moore being based upon events detailing the lives of two young boys living in the same neighborhood, whose lives began similarly yet became stark contrast as adults – one being an upstanding scholar, the other serving life in prison. I began to think that perhaps I would read about some “enlightening” or “defining” moment when one Wes Moore veered right, and the other Wes Moore veered left. To my surprise, that single “moment” was never exacted.
The author does not attempt to debate the topic of nature vs. nurture, or either as the primary reason either Wes Moore’s life is as it is today; however, he does share each boy’s story, the roads traveled and how they ended up where they are present day. Some of the stories were very serious, some funny, some eye-brow raising and some even sad. There are many tales, and I’m sure all readers can relate to at least one.
What I gather from this novel is that some opportunities are more available to some than others, be it through parents who have good jobs, or through parental networks of friends and colleagues. Opportunities taken, missed and lost come to mind when speaking of opportunity. From an education standpoint for example, private school may be an option for some, while public school is the seemingly only option for others. Still, this is not an excuse to not succeed because there are often ways to get around these so-called and perceived “roadblocks.” Let’s take earning scholarships, and seeking the assistance of friends and family to help pay tuition, for example. These are examples of how to get around perceived roadblocks.
Utilizing resources available to us can help shape us into the citizens we will become in the future. Knowing that these resources exist is even more crucial. Many do not take advantage of these resources because they do not know they exist. The “Call to Action” at the end of the book details numerous organizations offering educational assistance, mentoring services and more.
I also enjoyed reading about “the other” Wes Moore, the one whose life could have easily been the successful Wes Moore’s. As the other puts in his own words, “the chilling truth is that his story could have been mine, the tragedy is that my story could have been his.”
About the Author (excerpted from http://www.theotherwesmoore.com/)
Wes Moore is a youth advocate, Army combat veteran, promising business leader and author.
Wes Moore was born in 1978 and was three years old when his father, a respected radio and television host, died in front of him. His mother, hoping for a better future for her family, made great sacrifices to send Wes and his sisters to private school. Caught between two worlds, the affluence of his classmates and the struggles of his neighbors, Wes began to act out, succumbing to bad grades, suspensions, and delinquencies. Desperate to reverse his behavior, his mother sent him to military school in Pennsylvania. After trying to escape five times, Wes finally decided to stop railing against the system and become accountable for his actions. By graduation six years later, Moore was company commander overseeing 125 cadets.
On December 11, 2000, The Baltimore Sun ran an article about how Wes, despite his troubled childhood, had just received The Rhodes Scholarship. At the same time, The Sun was running stories — eventually more than 100 in all — about four African-American men who were arrested for the murder of an off-duty Baltimore police officer during an armed robbery. One of the men convicted was just two years older than Wes, lived in the same neighborhood, and in an uncanny turn, was also named Wes Moore.
Wes wondered how two young men from the same city, who were around the same age, and even shared a name, could arrive at two completely different destinies. The juxtaposition between their lives, and the questions it raised about accountability, chance, fate and family, had a profound impact on Wes. He decided to write to the other Wes Moore, and much to his surprise, a month later he received a letter back. He visited the other Wes in prison over a dozen times, spoke with his family and friends, and discovered startling parallels between their lives: both had difficult childhoods, they were both fatherless, were having trouble in the classroom; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and had run into trouble with the police. Yet at each stage of their lives, at similar moments of decision, they would head down different paths towards astonishingly divergent destinies. Wes realized in their two stories was a much larger tale about the consequences of personal responsibility and the imperativeness of education and community for a generation of boys searching for their way.
Seeking to help other young people to redirect their lives, Wes is committed to being a positive influence and helping kids find the support they need to enact change. Pointing out that a high school student drops out every nine seconds, Wes says that public servants — the teachers, mentors and volunteers who work with our youth — are as imperative to our national standing and survival as are our armed forces. “Public service does not have to be an occupation,” he says, “but it must be a way of life.”
Moore lives with his wife Dawn in New Jersey.
*No payment or gift-in-kind received for this review.