BLM Book Fairies: a book review of How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Our sixth title for BLM Book Fairies is Saeed Jones’ memoir about the challenges of being black and gay growing up in America…

A book fairy review of the book:

This is a very short read, but it certainly has impact. I enjoyed exploring Jones’ childhood through interesting characters in his mother and other close friendships, in fact it felt like fiction it was so engrossing. Reading the reflections of a black gay man is eye-opening as it shows the extent of racial and sexual bias still present in modern day America.

When Jones’ gets further into his life and starts to explore his sexuality with partners, we learn about the destructiveness of his relationships through several harrowing sexual episodes. It is a raw and honest memoir – so honest, in fact, the reader is certainly not expected to like Jones for much of the story. However stick with it, his honesty and openness is in fact endearing by the end.

Jones’ relationship with his mother is a complex one. As he grows up he doesn’t always understand her motives for accepting things as the way they are – he wants especially to challenge her about her acceptance of religion. He has strong views on the rights of women and his thoughts on this are refreshing, but clash with the life choices of his mother. This relationship and her character are drawn further throughout the memoir.

It was fascinating to have an insight into the journey Jones’ took into being accepted as gay – because while he accepted this for himself, he found it awkward and sometimes challenging to be accepted by the wider gay community. Perhaps I’ve been sheltered but I’ve not read any memoir that takes you through these types of challenges in detail and really shows the vulnerability of a young man trying to be accepted in the gay community. This is another example of Jones’ searing honesty – he doesn’t paint himself as someone who immediately knew everything there was to know from the start.

While I would recommend this read to see a different point of view, and I loved some of the characters in his story, I would give a heads up about the many explicit sexual scenes for any readers who would appreciate knowing this in advance. They are sometimes violent and described in intense detail.

The first page and front cover of Saeed Jones’ How We Fight For Our Lives.

About the book:

“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’”

Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

An award-winning poet, Jones has developed a style that’s as beautiful as it is powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one-of-a-kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.

Get your hands on a copy:

Hive Books have copies here but did you know you can ask your local book shop to order it in? Normally it will arrive in a couple of days! You also have a chance for a lovely chat with staff in a book shop 🙂

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