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The Other Wes Moore
Cover of The Other Wes Moore
The Other Wes Moore
One Name, Two Fates
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Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence...
Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence...
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Description-

  • Two kids with the same name lived in the same decaying city. One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison. Here is the story of two boys and the journey of a generation.

    In December 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about four young men who had allegedly killed a police officer in a spectacularly botched armed robbery. The police were still hunting for two of the suspects who had gone on the lam, a pair of brothers. One was named Wes Moore.
    Wes just couldn't shake off the unsettling coincidence, or the inkling that the two shared much more than space in the same newspaper. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting him: Who are you? How did this happen?
    That letter led to a correspondence and relationship that have lasted for several years. Over dozens of letters and prison visits, Wes discovered that the other Wes had had a life not unlike his own: Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had had difficult childhoods, both were fatherless; they'd hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and both had run into trouble with the police. At each stage of their young lives they had come across similar moments of decision, yet their choices would lead them to astonishingly different destinies.
    Told in alternating dramatic narratives that take readers from heart-wrenching losses to moments of surprising redemption, The Other Wes Moore tells the story of a generation of boys trying to find their way in a hostile world.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Chapter One


    Is Daddy Coming with Us?

    1982

    Nikki and I would play this game: I would sit on the living room chair while Nikki deeply inhaled and then blew directly in my face, eliciting hysterical laughs on both sides. This was our ritual. It always ended with me jabbing playfully at her face. She'd run away and bait me to give chase. Most times before today I never came close to catching her. But today, I caught her and realized, like a dog chasing a car, I had no idea what to do. So, in the spirit of three-year-old boys everywhere who've run out of better ideas, I decided to punch her. Of course my mother walked into the room right as I swung and connected.

    The yell startled me, but her eyes are what I remember.

    "Get up to your damn room" came my mother's command from the doorway. "I told you, don't you ever put your hands on a woman!"

    I looked up, confused, as she quickly closed the distance between us.

    My mother had what we called "Thomas hands," a tag derived from her maiden name: hands that hit so hard you had to be hit only once to know you never wanted to be hit again. The nickname began generations ago, but each generation took on the mantle of justifying it. Those hands were now reaching for me. Her eyes told me it was time to get moving.

    I darted up the stairs, still unsure about what I'd done so terribly wrong. I headed to the bedroom I shared with my baby sister, Shani. Our room was tiny, barely big enough for my small bed and her crib. There was no place to hide. I was running in circles, frantic to find a way to conceal myself. And still trying to comprehend why I was in so much trouble. I couldn't even figure out the meaning of half the words my mother was using.

    In a panic, I kicked the door shut behind me just as her voice reached the second floor. "And don't let me hear you slam that—" Boom! I stared for a moment at the closed door, knowing it would soon be flying open again. I sat in the middle of the room, next to my sister's empty crib, awaiting my fate.

    Then, deliverance.

    "Joy, you can't get on him like that." My father's baritone voice drifted up through the thin floor. "He's only three. He doesn't even understand what he did wrong. Do you really think he knows what a woman beater is?"

    My father was in the living room, ten feet from where the incident began. He was a very slender six foot two with a bushy mustache and a neatly shaped afro. It wasn't his style to yell. When he heard my mother's outburst, he rose from his chair, his eyes widening in confusion. My mother slowly reeled herself in. But she wasn't completely mollified.
    "Wes, he needs to learn what is acceptable and what is not!" My father agreed, but with a gentle laugh, reminded her that cursing at a young boy wasn't the most effective way of making a point. I was saved, for the moment.

    My first name, Westley, is my father's. I have two middle names, a compromise between my parents. My father loved the sound and meaning of Watende, a Shona word that means "revenge will not be sought," a concept that aligned with his gentle spirit. My mother objected. Watende sounded too big, too complicated for such a tiny baby. It wasn't until later in life that she understood why it was so important to my father that Watende be a part of me. Instead, she lobbied for Omari, which means "the highest." I'm not sure what was easier or less lofty about that name, but I was well into elementary school before I became comfortable spelling either.

    My parents' debate continued downstairs, but their words faded. I went to the room's only window and looked out on the world. My older sister, Nikki, and...

About the Author-

  • Wes Moore is a Rhodes Scholar and a combat veteran of Afghanistan. As a White House Fellow, he worked as a special assistant to Secretary Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. He was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, was named one of Ebony magazine's Top 30 Leaders Under 30 (2007), and, most recently, was dubbed one of the top young business leaders in New York by Crain's New York Business. He works in New York City.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine This is a fascinating book about two young men from Baltimore with the same name. One, the author, became a Rhodes Scholar while the other landed in jail. It's as much a meditation on circumstance and luck as it is a commentary on how successful our society is in managing those who are on the precipice, both socially and economically. The author doubles as narrator and brings the emotional heft necessary to sustain his words. Sometimes he speaks too fast, and other times he doesn't emphasize key words enough, but still the effect of his delivery is striking. We get to know both Wes Moores and become involved in their lives because one of them is compelling enough to draw us in with his reading. R.I.G. (c) AudioFile 2010, Portland, Maine
  • Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
    "
    "Moving and inspiring, The Other Wes Moore is a story for our times."
  • Juan Williams, author of Enough "A tense, compelling story and an inspirational guide for all who care about helping young people."
  • Geoffrey Canada, author of Fist Stick Knife Gun "This should be required reading for anyone who is trying to understand what is happening to young men in our inner cities."
  • Ben Carson, M.D., author of Gifted Hands "
    "The Other Wes Moore gets to the heart of the matter on faith, education, respect, the hard facts of incarceration, and the choices and challenges we all face. It's educational and inspiring."
  • William S. Cohen, former U.S. senator and secretary of defense "Wes Moore is destined to become one of the most powerful and influential leaders of this century. You need only read this book to understand why."
  • Tavis Smiley, from the Afterword "This intriguing narrative is enlightening, encouraging, and empowering. Read these words, absorb their meanings, and create your own plan to act and leave a legacy."

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