8 Feb
2013
Posted in: Books
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The Other Wes Moore

It’s winter – the time of year I get to read again.

I saw The Other Wes Moore at the airport several years ago, but since I tend to overpack books when traveling, I resisted the urge to buy the book and instead put it on my Paper Back Swap wishlist. Restraint!

Anyway, the premise of the book is that there were two kids named Wes Moore who grew up fatherless in the same city and were nearly the same age. One Wes Moore (the one writing the book) grew up  to graduate from college while having a successful career, the other after years of drug dealing landed in jail for an armed robbery that left a police officer dead.

The author, out curiosity about how two kids with such similar backgrounds and the same name could end up with such different outcomes, writes to the other Wes Moore in prison. These letters lead to visits and interviews which lead to the book.

The book itself is well written, and the author does a good job of going back and forth between their two lives in ways that are fluid and easy to follow. And while it is an interesting read, the Moore never speculates about the causes of their much different paths. He was wise to resist a “how I turned out ok and this guy didn’t” slant (which would have likely come across as condescending), but an exploration of factors that affect at-risk youth would have made it easier for the reader to feel a call to action. There is, however, a list of resources in the back of the book where a reader could do more research on their own. But from a sociological perspective even a brief exploration of the differences between their two lives that were most likely to have made the biggest differences in outcomes would have been fascinating.

The verdict: It’s ok. The writing is well done, but lacks a clear voice, but the contrasting stories were so interesting I really wanted to see how the “characters” ended up where I knew they were going. If you love memoirs or social sciences, this is worth your time. Otherwise, you’d probably not enjoy it much.

So, what do you think?