This is an astonishing memoir. In precise and emotional prose, Ward tells the story of 5 young black men who died in the space of four years. Their stories – told in reverse chronological order – are intertwined with the story of her growing up. This structure works perfectly as it allows her to bring everything together around the death that remains most profoundly with her, that of her younger brother, Josh. At times a journalist and, at other times, a master stylist, Ward offers wisdom about the lives of young black men and women in the south, wisdom that is still reverberating in my head and reminded me of times of the power of Toni Morrison’s work.
Ward reveals much of herself here – her drinking, her sense of otherness, her sense of her inheritance, one that she both embraces and tries to resist. Her goal for the memoir is both simple and not. She says she wanted to write “the narrative that says: Hello. We are here. Listen” (251). And she has.
In the end, I wept because of Ward’s courage, and I wept because of her story. I wept because of the beauty and momentum of her writing, and I wept because there’s so little I can do to change things. In the end, I wept most of all because of things that I’ll never understand.
This book, like the marvelous and generally underappreciated Salvage the Bones, are both stunning. They are both necessary and true. Read them.