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.
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.
Read an Excerpt
Is Daddy Coming with Us?
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.
“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 I loved to look through the window as families arrived at the swap market across the street. Our home was on a busy street that sat right on the border of Maryland and Washington, D.C., stuck confusingly between two different municipal jurisdictions, a fact that would become very significant in the near future. I pulled back the thin diaphanous curtain that covered the windows and spotted my friend Ayana outside with her mother. She was half Iranian and half Italian, with long, dark hair and warm eyes that always fascinated me. They were light green, unlike the eyes of anyone else I knew, and they twinkled as if they held stars. I wanted to tap on the window to say hello as she walked past our house to the tenement building next door. But I was afraid of making more trouble for myself, so I just smiled.
On the dresser by the window sat a framed picture of me with Nikki. I sat on her lap with my arm wrapped around her neck, a goofy smile on my face. Nikki is seven years older, so in the picture she was nine and I was barely two. Colorful beads capped the braided tips of her hair, a style she shared with my mother, and large, black-framed eyeglasses covered half of her face.
Nikki’s real name was Joy, like my mom’s, but everyone called her Nikki. My mother was obsessed with the poet Nikki Giovanni, in love with her unabashed feminine strength and her reconciliation of love and revolution. I spent nearly every waking moment around Nikki, and I loved her dearly. But sibling relationships are often fraught with petty tortures. I hadn’t wanted to hurt her. But I had.
At the time, I couldn’t understand my mother’s anger. I mean this wasn’t really a woman I was punching. This was Nikki. She could take it. Years would pass before I understood how that blow connected to my mom’s past.
My mother came to the United States at the age of three. She was born in Lowe River in the tiny parish of Trelawny, Jamaica, hours away from the tourist traps that line the coast. Its swaths of deep brush and arable land made it great for farming but less appealing for honeymoons and hedonism. Lowe River was quiet, and remote, and it was home for my mother, her brothers, and my grandparents. My maternal great-grandfather Mas Fred, as he was known, would plant a coconut tree at his home in Mount Horeb, a neighboring area, for each of his kids and grandkids when they were born. My mom always bragged that hers was the tallest and strongest of the bunch. The land that Mas Fred and his wife, Miss Ros, tended had been cared for by our ancestors for generations. And it was home for my mom until her parents earned enough money to bring the family to the States to fulfill my grandfather’s dream of a theology degree from an American university.
When my mom first landed in the Bronx, she was just a small child, but she was a survivor and learned quickly. She studied the other kids at school like an anthropologist, trying desperately to fit in. She started with the way she spoke. She diligently listened to the radio from the time she was old enough to turn it on and mimicked what she heard. She’d always pull back enough in her interactions with her classmates to give herself room to quietly observe them, so that when she got home she could practice imitating their accents, their idiosyncrasies, their style. Words like irie became cool. Constable became policeman. Easy-nuh became chill out. The melodic, swooping movement of her Jamaican patois was quickly replaced by the more stable cadences of American English. She jumped into the melting pot with both feet.
Joy Thomas entered American University in Washington, D.C., in 1968, a year when she and her adopted homeland were both experiencing volatile change—Vietnam, a series of assassinations, campus unrest, rioting that tore through the nation’s cities, and an American president who no longer wanted the job. Joy herself was caught between loving the country that offered her and her family new opportunities and being frustrated with that country because it still made her feel like a second-class citizen.
At college, Joy quickly fell in with the OAASAU, the very long acronym for a very young group, the Organization of African and African-American Students at the American University. The OAASAU was rallying AU’s black students into engagement with the national, international, and campus issues roiling around them.The battling organization elevated her consciousness beyond her assimilationist dreams and sparked a passion for justice and the good fight.
A charismatic AU senior named Bill was the treasurer of OAASAU, and two months after they met early in the exciting whirlwind of her freshman year, Joy was engaged to marry him. Despite the quick engagement, they waited two years to get married, by which time Joy was a junior and Bill a recent graduate looking for work. Marriage brought the sobering realities of life into focus. The truth was, they were both still trying to find their feet as adults and feeling a little in over their heads as a married couple.
As the love haze wore off, Joy began to see that the same qualities that had made Bill so attractive as a college romance—his free and rebellious spirit, his nearly paralyzing contempt for “the Man”—made him a completely unreliable husband. And she discovered that what she had foolishly thought of as his typical low-level recreational drug use was really something much worse. In a time of drug experimentation and excess, Bill was starting to look like a casualty.
As the years passed, Joy kept hoping that Bill’s alcohol and drug use would fade. She was caught in a familiar trap for young women and girls—the fantasy that she alone could change her man. So she doubled down on the relationship. They had a child together. She hoped that would motivate Bill to make some changes. But his addiction just got worse, and the physical, mental, and emotional abuse he unleashed became more intense.
One night things came to a head. Bill came home and started to badger Joy about washing the dishes. His yelling threatened to wake up one-year-old Nikki, and Joy tried to shush him. He kept yelling. He moved in on her. The two of them stood face-to-face, him yelling, her pleading with him in hushed tones to lower his voice.
He grabbed her by the shoulders and threw her down. She sprawled on the floor in her white T-shirt and blue AU sweatpants, stunned but not completely surprised by his explosive reaction. He wasn’t done. He grabbed her by her T-shirt and hair, and started to drag her toward the kitchen. He hit her in the chest and stomach, trying to get her to move her arms, which were now defensively covering her head. Finally, she snapped. She screamed at him without fear of waking Nikki as he dragged her across the parquet floor. She kicked and scratched at his hands.
Bill was too strong, too determined, too high. Her head slammed against the doorframe as he finally dragged her body onto the kitchen’s linoleum floor. He released her hair and her now-ripped T-shirt and once again ordered her to wash the dishes. He stood over her with a contemptuous scowl on his face. It could’ve been that look. Or it could’ve been the escalating abuse and the accumulated frustration at the chaotic life he was creating for her and her daughter. But something gave Joy the strength to pull herself up from the floor. On top of the counter was a wooden block that held all of the large, sharp knives in the kitchen. She pulled the biggest knife from its sheath and pointed the blade at his throat. Her voice was collected as she made her promise: “If you try that shit again, I will kill you.”
Bill seemed to suddenly regain his sobriety. He backed out of the kitchen slowly, not taking his eyes from his wife’s tear-drenched face. Her unrelenting stare. They didn’t speak for the rest of the night. One month later, Joy and Nikki were packed up. Together, they left Bill for good.
My mom vowed to never let another man put his hands on her. She wouldn’t tolerate it in others either.
My parents finished their conversation, and it was obvious that one of them was heading up to speak to me. I turned from the window and stood in the middle of the room, mentally running through my nonexistent options for escape.
Soon I could tell by the sound of the steps it was my father. His walk was slower, heavier, more deliberate. My mother tended to move up the stairs in a sprint. He lightly knocked on the door and slowly turned the knob. The door opened slightly, and he peeked in. His easy half smile, almost a look of innocent curiosity, assured me that, at least for now, the beating would wait.
“Hey, Main Man, do you mind if I come in?” I’m told that he had many terms of endearment for me, but Main Man is the one I remember. I didn’t even look up but nodded slowly. He had to duck to clear the low doorway. He picked me up and, as he sat on the bed, placed me on his lap. As I sat there, all of my anxiety released. I could not have felt safer, more secure. He began to explain what I did wrong and why my mother was so angry. “Main Man, you just can’t hit people, and particularly women. You must defend them, not fight them. Do you understand?”
I nodded, then asked, “Is Mommy mad at me?”
“No, Mommy loves you, like I love you, she just wants you to do the right thing.”
My father and I sat talking for another five minutes before he led me downstairs to apologize to my sister, and my mother. With each tiny step I took with him, my whole hand wrapped tighter around his middle finger. I tried to copy his walk, his expressions. I was his main man. He was my protector.
That is one of only two memories I have of my father.
The other was when I watched him die.
My dad was his parents’ only son. Tall but not physically imposing, he dreamed of being on television—having a voice that made an impact. Armed with an insatiable desire to succeed—and aided by his natural gifts, which included a deeply resonant voice—he made his dream come true soon after finishing up at Bard College in 1971.
As a young reporter, he went to many corners of the country, following a story or, in many cases, following a job. After stints in North Carolina, New York, Florida, Virginia, California, and a handful of other states, he returned home to southern Maryland and started work at a job that would change his life. He finally had the chance to host his own public affairs show. And he’d hired a new writing assistant. Her name was Joy.
Table of Contents
Part I Fathers and Angels
1 Is Daddy Coming with Us? 5
2 In Search of Home 26
3 Foreign Ground 46
Part II Choices and Second Chances
4 Marking Territory 69
5 Lost 85
6 Hunted 108
Part III Paths taken and Expectations Fulfilled
7 The Land That God Forgot 129
8 Surrounded 146
A Call to Action by Tavis Smiley 185
Resource Guide 187
A Reader's Guide 241
What People are Saying About This
“Startling and revelatory . . . a rocketing real-life narrative.”—Baltimore Sun
“A moving book . . . a call to arms.”—Chicago Tribune
“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.”—Tavis Smiley, from the Afterword
“[A] compassionate memoir—a story that explores how some survive and others sink in urban battlegrounds.”—People
“Moore vividly and powerfully describes not just the culture of the streets but how it feels to be a boy growing up in a world where violence makes you a man.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Inspiring . . . a story for our times.”—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
Reading Group Guide
1. The author says to the other Wes, “I guess it’s hard sometimes todistinguish between second chances and last chances.” What do you think he means? What is each Wes’s “last chance”? Discuss the differences in how each one uses that chance and why they make the decisions they do.
2. During their youth, Wes and Wes spend most of their time in crime- ridden Baltimore and the Bronx. How important was that environment in shaping their stories and personalities?
3. Why do you think the incarcerated Wes continues to proclaim his innocence regarding his role in the crime for which he was convicted?
4. The book begins with Wes and Wes’s discussion of their fathers. What role do you think fatherhood plays in the lives of these men? How do the absence of their fathers and the differences in the reasons for their absences affect them?
5. Wes dedicates the book to “the women who helped shape [his] journey to manhood.” Discuss the way women are seen in Wes’s community. What impact do they have on their sons?
6. The author says “the chilling truth is that [Wes’s] story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.” To what extent do you think that’s true? What, ultimately, prevented their stories from being interchangeable?
7. Throughout the book, the author sometimes expresses confusion at his own motivations. Why do you think he is so driven to understand the other Wes’s life?
8. The author attributes Wes’s eventual incarceration to shortsightedness, an inability to critically think about the future. Do you agree?
9. Wes states that people often live up to the expectations projected on them. Is that true? If someone you care for expects you to succeed—or fail—will you? Where does personal accountability come into play?
10. Discuss the relationship between education and poverty. In your discussion, consider the education levels of both Weses’ mothers, how far each man got in his education, the opportunities they gained or lost as a result of their education, and their reasons for continuing or discontinuing their studies.
11. The book begins with a scene in which the author is reprimanded for hitting his sister. Why is it important for conflicts to be solved hrough means other than violence? In what way do the Weses differ in their approaches to physical confrontations, and why?
12. Why is the idea of “going straight” so unappealing to the incarcerated Wes and his peers? What does it mean for our culture to have such a large population living and working outside the boundaries of the law?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I had never heard of Wes Moore before I was lucky enough to be in the audience at the Oprah Winfrey Show when he was a guest (air date 04/27/10). As a parting gift, we received an advance copy of The Other Wes Moore. In the few minutes that this Wes Moore was on stage, I was immediately struck by his charisma, enthusiasm for life and belief in a brighter future for others who begin life as he did. I read the book from cover-to-cover the moment I returned home. As I read, I was searching for the thought processes that made this Wes Moore, successful and upwardly mobile in life and the other Wes, headed for defeat and failure. I wanted to know what this Wes Moore was made of - whether innately there or implanted and nurtured by others. The book sheds light on this. Our Wes Moore comments, "Young boys are more likely to believe in themselves if they know that there's someone, somewhere, who shares that belief. To carry the burden of belief alone is too much for most young shoulders." At crucial junctures when our Wes was unable to carry the burden, his mother, friends, grandparents and mentors helped shoulder it with him but he remained part of the mix. By contrast, from prison, the other Wes Moore comments, "We take other's expectations of us and make them our own. The expectations that others place on us help us form our expectations of ourselves. We will do what others expect of us. If they expect us to graduate, we will graduate. If they expect us to get a job, we will get a job. If they expect us to go to jail, then that's where we will end up too. At some point you lose control." To that, our Wes Moore, adds, "True, but it's easy to lose control when you were never looking for it in the first place." Both Wes Moores started out with the odds stacked against them and innately, I think, both wanted to succeed but there finally came a time when they each chose a different path for themselves. At a later point in his life when our Wes is firmly on the right path, he visits South Africa and speaks with a woman who survived apartheid. She states, "The common bond of humanity and decency that we share is stronger than any conflict, any adversity, and challenge. Fighting for your convictions is important but finding peace is paramount. Knowing when to fight and when to seek peace is wisdom." Also in South Africa, Wes meets a boy who is days away from going through the Xhosa adult circumcision ritual and when Wes asks if the boy is scared of the pain and the process, the boy replies, "It's not the process you should focus on; it's the joy you will feel after you go through the process." That sums up the meaning of this book for me. Life is a process and the end result is the prize. Our Wes Moore is deserving of joy. He has earned it and he continues to pay it forward in his life. I am now a fan of Wes Moore. I have no doubt that his name will become a household one once the Oprah show airs and his book hits newsstands. Pick up several copies, as I have, to give as gifts to those looking for inspiration. A local Boys and Girls Club or other families-helping-families type organization would benefit greatly from this book. Ultimately, I think you are left with the realization that we are responsible for ourselves and for each other. These are not mutually exclusive events. Wes benefited from a loving, self-sacrificing family but he kept himself as part of the equation. The other Wes didn't.
Moore isn't at all smug or self-righteous about how his life compares to that of the other Wes Moore. Nor does he pity the other Wes Moore. That's because there is a difference between reasons and excuses. That is, there are abundant reasons for the choices that the second Wes Moore made and their tragic consequences for himself, his family, and his victims. However, the first Wes Moore clearly doesn't regard any of those reasons as acceptable excuses. Both Wes Moores came to forks in their lives; one of them made-- or was forced to make-- the right choices, and the other one didn't. But they were choices, and they are ultimately responsible for making them. Moore never specifically says it, but nonetheless, as one reads his account of their parallel lives, the difference is in the ways that their mothers lived their own lives and reacted to what their sons were doing. Moore's mother was raised by college-educated parents, and she spent her life working and struggling to achieve things for herself and her family. She moved several times in an effort to find stable, safe places for her kids to grow up, and she worked several jobs so she could afford to put her kids into private schools. When it appeared that Moore was going to fall into the thug lifestyle, she sacrificed economically and emotionally to put him into a military school. In short, she simply refused to allow herself or her kids to succumb to the conditions and temptations that surrounded them. In contrast, the other Wes Moore's mother tried to resist those conditions and temptations, but she eventually did succumb to them. She simply gave up. At the same time, unlike the first Wes Moore's mother, she allowed her kids to see violence as an acceptable way to resolve problems in their lives. This is a compelling story told with passion and understanding. While the author is compassionate, he also makes clear that he is in no way excusing the other Wes Moore for his heinous deed. Even so, I imagine this is a tough book for the family of the slain policeman to read. If you want another great story of a young black man from Baltimore who succeeds thanks to his determined mother.
Everyone should read this book. It will give you an understanding of how important our roles as parents,family and mentors are to our youth. In each section the views of both Wes Moore's are expressed, giving you an insight of how they viewed the world. This book isn't only a great read for adults but for our youth as will. After completing the book, I gave it to my 14 year old nephew. He loved it so much that he started to tell his friends about it. I think this book should be given out in schools, so our youth can see that there are others that are experiencing the same situations they are, and that achieving excellence is possible. This book is just Amazing!!
To those who drive down City streets and recognize the eyes of the many characters in this book, I challenge you not to look at them without a greater understanding. Wes Moore humbly portrays the tense hope that children born under these circumstances face each day. He illustrates what it takes to overcome great obstacles and how hard it is to find a bit of luck when it is so desparately needed. He portrays love in its many lights and manifestations while showing us the scary reality that hovers so closely over so many of our City children's lives. This book is a must read for anyone who is trying to understand what is going on with our kids and what they can do to help. Thank you for such a beautifully written book.
Joe O’Bryan When I heard that my mom got me this book I thought to myself that this is going to be really stupid and not worth reading. But in the first chapter I was hooked. I couldn’t stop reading. My family is just like the good Wes Moore’s family because my mother is always telling me and yelling at me to go above and beyond what is expected. The weird thing about the story is that two kids with similar backgrounds that share the same name and lived close to each other take very different turns. One man gets into drugs and is eventually arrested for a mass murder. He is caught in an old abandoned house after 12 days and is sentenced to life in jail. The other kid grows up to write a book and become very successful. He is able to look back on his life and realize that all of his reprimanding from his mom is not going to waste. Sometimes the other Wes Moore's family will come to visit him in jail but it is never like the family that the good Wes Moore has. I believe that this book is a very good read and I totally agree with the most helpful review because he/she says “A powerful and insightful look into what makes us tick and the role our families and influences play in our outcomes.” I really think that that statement sums up the entire book because it fells like you can take one road in life or the other and you are hoping that you pick the right one. In this case one Wes Moore went one way and the other went the other way. I believe that this book is a very good book for anyone of all ages.
It is a great book and should be read by every american.
Shortly before he died, my father started planning to write a book about why some kids do and some kids don't "make it." After working as an educator for decades in the Chicago public school system, he recognized that was a story that needed desperately to be told. Wes Moore has told that story very well. As Lauryn Hill so eloquently stated, "consequence is no coincidence." Without judgement or excuses, Wes Moore carefully and thoughtfully illustrates how the choices made for and by these two young men resulted in very different consequences. Special note: I "read" the audio book version. It is read by the author. He has a great voice and the recording quality is excellent. Among the very best audio books I have "read."
Although the book The Other Wes Moore is used as a cautionary tale against what may happen to one who falls down the wrong path, it fails to uphold this standard in many ways. The book starts off by introducing the author, Wes Moore, and a man who shares the same name but a different fate. Both men grew up in the same area, had the same family problems, and had the same problems with school yet one Wes Moore becomes a Rhodes Scholar and an outstanding student while the other ends up in prison. Not only did this book leave the reader with many unanswered questions, it revealed the underlying answer to the story’s conflict: money. Without money the author would have never been able to attend military school. Without military school the author would have continued to do poorly in school and could have just as easily ended up as Wes Moore. The fact that money was one of the main reasons the author became who he was makes this story very unappealing and I think it sends the wrong message to our nation’s youth. Another thing that threw me off was a part in the story where the author, while attending military school, asks one of his friends Sean the question: “Do you think what life would ever be like if we never came here?” Sean simply replies, “About the same I guess”, and the author agrees with him so easily. The reason this throws me off is because I thought military school made the huge difference between the two Wes Moore’s yet the author makes it seem like his life would be the same if he had not attended the school. This leads me into my second reason of why this book was not captivating: it did not fully explain the characters’ stories. The book skipped around a lot and left many missing parts. For example when the author first attends military school he is very insubordinate and tries to escape, and by the start of the next chapter he becomes platoon sergeant and commands his own platoon. The book never fully explained what the author did in order to get to where he was. Some parts of the stories were overly developed while some, such as this part in particular, left the reader confused. All in all, this book had good intentions but failed to be the outstanding book I think it should have been. I feel like if this book was more precisely written and had fully developed its plot then it definitely would have deserved 4 or even 5 stars.
Great book; at first glance this book looks interesting, but once you start it, you will soon see it is even more than that. The lives of two men with the same name but completely different fates is shown in this novel in a way that parallels them both in order to show their similarities and differences. As author Wes Moore slowly but surely matured, he began to understand the realities of life and worked hard to become an educated and successful man. The other Wes Moore seemed to know deep down the realities of becoming involved with the drug business but had no one to truly guide him given his father's absence and his mother struggling to make ends meet in a poverty stricken community. However, his affiliation with the drug game soon "snowballed" from a business in order to make ends meet to a violent and hate-filled life. When this lifestyle seemed to take him over, his life worsened as he spent time in and out of jail for various crimes. The reality is that either of these men could have had the other's life had they chosen their decisions in a different manner. The author does a good job of revealing this to the audience and leaves them with this idea to think about: how would things have been different if one of the two decided to act differently? While growing up, author Wes Moore saw the realities of the drug game and could have ended up in the same shoes as the other Wes Moore had it not been for the guidance of his mother. Similarly, the other Wes Moore could have just as easily turned his life around had he spent more time to think of how becoming involved in the drug game would affect his life. In reality our decisions are what make us who we are, and decide our fate in life. The only negative part of this book are the early parts of the book where the author describes the stories of each characters' families and how they ended up in the city that they did. But overall, this is a well-written book that does a great job of showing the importance of one's decisions and how anyone can change their life by thinking how their actions will influence where they end up in life.
this book was very interesting and insightful...it is a shame that the police officer was killed and his family was left without him..Wes, the author also had to live without a father...but let's not look at the tragedy but what can become from it..the epilogue includes groups that need volunteers to help influence children in a good way..
Full disclosure: I am a lover of literature and this book doesn't intend to be literary but it loses one star as the writing, in my opinion, isn't as strong as the story warrants. That said, it is startling and sorrowful in turns and thought-provoking throughout. Both Wes's hope this book may spare some number of young black men the fate of the other Wes Moore. However, I find myself hoping it impacts at least that many white folks who unwittingly participate in economic and social structures that land a disproportionate number of young black men in prison. Dr. King once said that his greatest disappointment lay with the white moderate who failed to act on their convictions. Let this book be a call to action, Veterans who feel they owe a debt to their military service may find the book especially embracing as it also tells the story of the author's life having been transformed and his future assured through inspiration by the likes of Colin Powell and other military role models.
This is a very well-written and compelling, but ultimately unsatisfying book.The author begins with a premise: two boys, same name, with much in common. Yet one goes to prison for attempted murder and the other becomes a tremendous success. We come to learn a great deal about the situations that ultimately contributed to the distinct differences in the boys' lives, but very little about the boys' own decisions and motivations, fears and changes. I wanted more.
The Other Wes Moore: Two boys same name - one ends up in jail, one ends up a Fellow to Condaleeza Rice in Washington DC. What was the difference between the two boys? What happened? How can WE help so that more poor black men and others stay out of the drug business and end up incarcerated for the rest of their lives.
Interesting book, and incredibly dynamic speaker, if you ever get a chance to hear him. I think about this premise alot, what different choices and opportunities could have sent me down a completely different path. And how for alot of people, those choices/opportunities send them down a path with little or no ability to change that course.
This is an interesting, thought provoking story of two boys with the same name who went in different directions in their lives due to a variety of reasons. The book could have been a lot better; I felt the author skimmed over a lot of details that I wanted to know about both him and the other Wes. I expected there to be much more about their relationship but I think Mr. Moore really didn't "get to know" the other Wes; his story was simply used as a foil against his own. I also didn't feel I came to know the author either, rather just the facts. It seemed rushed and incomplete and I wish the writer would have taken more time to really give us a profound story of his life and the life of the other Wes Moore.
I found this book to be somewhat interesting, yet nowhere near groundbreaking. It was authored in a way to make it a fast read as well as being compelling. While the author shared a name with a wayward counterpart, living only blocks apart in their early youth and never having met until the other Wes Moore became "locally" infamous, I believe the impact of the coincidence had more significance on the author. As the book progressed, I waited for admonition of the reader for perpetuating societal ills; the criticism never comes. Thankfully, aside from passing mentions, the book was neither political nor castigating. Wes Moore, the author, writes in a clinically emotionless pseudo-biography of his convict namesake. I appreciated the author not attempting to garner sympathy for the imprisoned Wes Moore. We were not asked to assign blame to society or consider the prisoner Wes Moore a victim; he was simply a directionless youth who did not heed the hypocritical warnings of his older brother. In a refreshingly sense, the accomplished and respectable author does not even promote his path is the one, right way for everyone.The Other Wes Moore is not a critical sociological evaluation of Black youth in America, the drug trade, fatherless homes in urban areas. The book is merely an interesting read of a personal reflection on two boys with a shared name who took two drastically different paths in life.
Two men named Wes Moore were raised in nearby streets in Baltimore. One Wes Moore earned a scholarship to a prestigious university, the other ended up in jail for life. They didn¿t meet until their fates were already set, but the result is a fascinating nonfiction look at how they each ended up there. I¿ll admit there were times when I lost track of which Wes Moore¿s story I was reading. They have the same name and had very similar lives when they were young. They were both tempted by drugs and violence and they both lost parents to death or abandonment. The two things that really stood out were the fact that you have to make choices that are good for you and you are responsible for the decisions you make. Also, strong parents/family support is a huge factor in a child¿s life. The mentors and leaders that step up in the lives of a young person make all the difference. It made me appreciate the work people do in tutoring and mentoring programs. BOTTOM LINE: I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. It¿s a quick read and well-suited for audio. It wasn¿t overly inspirational, just a realistic look at the possible outcome any life could have with just a few minor changes.
Rating: 3* of fiveThe Book Report: Chronic overachiever and Marine Wes Moore gets captivated by the fate of his fellow Baltimorean and convicted murderer Wes Moore. They meet and become friends, leading to this book.My Review: More's the pity. This damn thing is like getting a sunshine enema. One feels far crappier about disliking this book than a mere novel, or a tendentious political screed from some libertarian or conservative wingnut.The author's breezy, anecdotal style is perfectly adequate to the task of telling his story. It's in no way unique or even very interesting, but the points are made, the language is limpidly clear, and I never once thought the publisher was crazy for acquiring but not copyediting the book. This is an increasingly rare feeling on my part.So what's with the curmudgeonly reaction to it? I loathe being preached at. This book feels preachy and smug to me. I can almost feel Jesus in every word, and this is a most disturbing and disagreeable sensation to me.I didn't like it, and I doubt I'd like either Wes Moore in the flesh either. I'm glad I read it, but I don't recommend it to anyone not in search of the Wonderbra experience: Uplifted beyond that which is natural (not to mention deisrable).
Interesting but disappointing. One really knows the story without reading. I would have liked to read more about the interactions between the two men named Wes.
I read this book for my book club. This book parallels the lives of two young men with the same name, one into triumph, the other into tragedy. It chronicles the different choices made throughout their young lives and the different influencing people with whom they became associated. I feel the difference is in the ways that their mothers lived their own lives and reacted to what their sons were doing.Wes Moore, the author did his research and provided statistics on socioeconomic conditions and how it can affect your life. In other words, it¿s a very instructive case study on how class mechanisms work in America.I was slightly confused, but the confusion cleared up quickly as I caught on to the fact that the author is the Wes Moore writing in the first person while the "other" Wes Moore is being written about in the third person. Actually, it was a brilliant and logical way for the author to convey how easily his life was so similar to the other character¿s life and he could have easily taken the same path in life and become a statistic.I would have liked to have gotten more in-sight into his own life, particularly in his teen-age and later years¿. However, his personal triumph over adversity is what made this book a good read.This book stimulated great conversations amongst our book group about how it¿s important to help a generation of boys choose a productive path in life instead of a life of crime and that parent involvement can make all the difference to our children¿s future.Communicated well, this book makes you think.
The author, a Rhodes scholar, turned investment banker, spots an article in a Baltimore newspaper, detailing the criminal life of one Wes Moore, who is currently serving a life sentence for a robbery, in which a police officer was killed. Moore, the writer, is immediately intrigued. It turns out this other young man was raised in a similar inner-city neighborhood, actually just blocks away from his own. They were also both brought up by single mothers. Moore decides to contact this man in prison and find out his story. This is an excellent examination of how lives can be altered by the slightest differences; sometimes a simple choice or a chance meeting. Moore also explores these dangerous and tragic streets, where a boy has very little opportunity to succeed. A well-written memoir and one I highly recommend.
Although this book is an interesting glimpse into the lives of two very similar boys who grew up to be very different men, I found myself somehow disappointed as I finished reading it. I was expecting something more, although I'm not sure what exactly that was. It just wasn't as good as I thought that it would be.
Wes Moore had already begun to make a name for himself when he became aware of another young man named Wes Moore who had been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a hold-up where a man was killed. So he delved back into the origins of himself and the other Wes Moore to try to discover where their paths diverged. The really fascinating thing is just how similar their lives were! Raised by single moms and grandparents, growing up on the streets of the projects, families trying to move away from the negative influences--one makes it out, and the other doesn't. Both families knew the importance of education--one family pushed their Wes even when he didn't care about school--they made good on their threat to send him to military school. Was that why one of them became a Rhodes Scholar and worked with Condeleeza Rice in the White House, and the other is spending the rest of his life in prison? It's hard knowing.Although he claims not to be gloating it gets tiring to hear the author tell the reader how great his life is and about all the wonderful opportunities he's had. Just not as good as I had hoped.
I grew up and went to school in Baltimore and the short length of this book made this a perfect trial. Besides, it was a well-written and poignant story. Wes Moore is the name of two different black men who were both born in Baltimore, who both lost their fathers at a very early age, and who were raised by hard-working single mothers. They each had siblings, they both were encouraged to stay in school, they both had early run-ins with law enforcement, but one of them became a Rhodes scholar and intern to Condeleeza Rice, the other is spending the rest of his life in a maximum security prison without hope of parole for his part in a robbery gone bad in which a Baltimore policeman was killed.The two did not know each other until the author read about the arrest of the other Wes Moore. As he heard about the background of the suspect/later convicted felon, he began to ponder the similarities in their lives and asked himself what made the difference in their lives. His initial letter to Wes the prisoner led to many visits where the two men began to delve into their backgrounds and differences. Wes the prisoner blames no one but himself. Wes the journalist is able to see how the strong male role models in his life, and the chances he was afforded because of those men, gave him opportunities which he was fortunate enough to take advantage of. Both men agree that a country that values youth, instead of fearing them, that helps them look at a future that has options will help youth overcome the helplessness so many feel today.Wes the author was fortunate enough to have grandparents who mortgaged their house to pay his tuition to a private military academy after he got into trouble in the public schools. He hated it at first, but eventually flourished under the structure and discipline and mentoring of the military veterans who ran the school. He quotes one of his role models at the school: When it is time for your to leave this school, leave this job or leave this earth, you make sure that you have worked hard enough to make sure that it mattered that you were even here." The author goes on to add "...the notion that life is transient, that it can come and go quickly...has been with me since I had seen my father die....the idea of life's impermanence underlined everything for kids my age--it drove some of us to a paralyzing apathy, stopped us from even thinking too far into the future."Neither Wes has a definitive answer why each made the choices he did. Wes the prisoner has embraced Islam, and is accepting of his fate. He sees his four children occasionally, but finds those visits only amplify his sense of helplessness in being able to influence their lives. Wes the author is enjoying a successful career as a journalist, served with the Army in Afghanistan, and as been fortunate enough to have adventures around the world.The book has an extensive appendix listing programs that help youth at risk, and urges adults to become involved. It is left for the reader to decide the reasons for the different paths of each, and to decide how he or she can help.
Two young men from nearly identical backgrounds, both named Wes Moore, have hugely different futures ahead of them. One is a Rhodes scholar, successful businessman, and motivational speaker. The other, a former drug dealer and convicted felony murderer, will spend the rest of his life in jail without the possibility of parole. As young boys both struggled against the hopelessness of life in poor Baltimore neighborhoods experiencing disappointment and success. What caused their paths to diverge leading to such different ends? More than just a look at a peculiar coincidence, or a case study in nature vs. nurture, this book looks beyond the two Wes Moores to others like them. It offers a lengthy resource guide of agencies and programs designed to help young people and challenges readers to consider and contribute to the futures of youth everywhere.