Monday, October 24, 2011

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

Wes Moore, the author and Rhodes Scholar, was being interviewed on NPR in August 2011. His book had been selected by several colleges as an all-freshman read title. Just hearing a snippet of his conversation made me want to read the book. Listen to that interview at this link.

When I found out that our library has four versions of the book, I checked out three to compare formats. I preferred the CD audio book in part because the author was the narrator. Also the regular print copy and CD audio book both check out for three weeks with a three week renewal while the eBook and downloadable audio book are available for only two weeks with no renewal.

This true story intertwines and juxtaposes the lives of two men with the same name, roughly the same age and living in the same city. Both grew up in the Baltimore area without a father's presence and struggled in school. With the guidance of a strong mother and grandparents, author Wes Moore attended military school, grudgingly at first, became a military officer and eventually a Rhodes Scholar. The other Wes Moore dropped out of school, ran a drug operation, fathered four children with two women without marrying either and went to prison for life for a crime that resulted in the death of an off-duty police officer. One Wes Moore is in the Jessup Correctional Institution with no chance of parole, and the other Wes Moore became a White House Fellow, worked with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and is happily married.

Author Moore, struck by the thought the man in jail could have been him, wrote the other Wes Moore to ask how this happened. The imprisoned Moore replied, and the two eventually met in person. Author Moore says, "The answer is elusive. People are so wildly different, and it's hard to know when genetics or environment or just bad luck is decisive. As I've puzzled over the issue, I've become convinced that there are some clear and powerful measures that can be taken during this crucial time in a young person's life . . . I think the best we can do is give our young people a chance to make the best decisions possible by providing them with the information and the tools and the support they need." His book ends with "A Call to Action" written by Tavis Smiley along with a detailed "Resource Guide" of organizations that help young people realize their potential.

I like this book; it reminds me that fact can be stranger than fiction. Generally I enjoy historical fiction with strong characters and interesting relationships. The Other Wes Moore offered both in a nonfiction memoir and provided a strong social commentary, too. I hope author Moore will continue to write; I would make an effort to read anything he writes and would like to hear him as a speaker. Also the idea of “common reads” that is popular now on college campuses appeals to me as a way to encourage reading, discussion and community service (check out

More on Moore: Here's another NRP interview with Wes Moore from 2010 when his book was released, a link to the author's website, and a 15 minute PBS video clip.

~Michelle, Adult Services

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