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 has 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.
In The Other Wes Moore, author Wes Moore narrates his memoir of two little boys who become very different men. Both African American, fatherless, exposed to crime at an early age, Wes Moore, the author, and Wes Moore, the other, share both a name and a history, but live very different lives today. This book is an examination of why, as well as a call to action.
Moore narrates his book and his voice is solid and rich tones deepened by the streets, and consonants and vowels shaped and buffed by a good education. Proud, but never boastful, Moore tells his story of education, military service, and leadership. And, in a somber and respectful voice, he tells a parallel story: one of crime, broken families, and incarceration the life of the other Wes Moore.
The memoir is part self-examination and part anthropological and sociological study of inner-city America. Throughout, Moore searches for the answer to the question: “What made the difference?” Why did he become a White House fellow and serve his country in Afghanistan while the other Wes Moore was charged with killing a police officer and now serves a life sentence?
The author offers no pat answers, no quaint life lessons just hard truths. He is neither sympathetic nor judgmental he makes no excuses for the tragic loss of Sergeant Bruce Prothero, the police officer the other Wes Moore was eventually convicted of killing. He also shows us the other side of his doppelganger poignantly describing the other Moore’s careful work during shop class at trade school on a playhouse for his daughter.
Wes Moore speaks from the perspective of someone who has known fear and disillusionment, but also with a voice that has said, “Yes, sir,” and “Will you marry me?” and “Thank you.” This is the voice that calls the listener to want to make a difference in the lives of young people in this country. Sarah Evans Hogeboom
"Moore writes with subtlety and insight about the plight of ghetto youth, viewing it from inside and out; he probes beneath the pathologies to reveal the pressures—poverty, a lack of prospects, the need to respond to violence with greater violence—that propelled the other Wes to his doom. The result is a moving exploration of roads not taken." (Publishers Weekly)
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Insightful lesson in self-determination
Biography and Autobiography in One
If you enjoy reading biographies of contemporary people, you might also enjoy The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, or Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, by Karen Blumenthal, or Aung San Suu Kyi, by Sherry O'Keefe.
The author Wes Moore had a challenging childhood. His father died when he was very young, his mom had to work multiple jobs to support their family after his death, and they had to live in neighborhoods plagued with drugs and gangs.
Moore survived his turbulent youth, however, and went on to become a decorated war veteran, college graduate, and Rhodes scholar. It was when he was in South Africa on his Rhodes fellowship that his mother told him about another young man, about his age, and from his home town, who had just been arrested for robbing a jewelry store; the robbers had killed a security guard. This young man’s name was also Wes Moore, and this Wes Moore was convicted to a life sentence in prison.
The shock that there could be another person, with his identical name, growing up in a very similar situation who ended up in such a different place made the author want to understand the other Wes Moore, and how their lives had diverged so significantly. This is the biography and autobiography of the two Wes Moores.