The Other Wes Moore

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I love reading nonfiction and memoirs. I picked up this book from my classroom library in the Bronx. I started reading a few pages and I was drawn in right away.

What is the Other Wes Moore about?
The other Wes Moore is an account of two men with the exact same name who grew up in the same city and faced difficult childhoods. They grew up in Baltimore in single-parent households and lacked resources. Each Wes made key choices in their life that impacted who they became in extreme ways. Wes, the author, became a Rhodes scholar, a war veteran, a white house fellow, and a business leader in New York City (I enjoyed his references to NYC and the Bronx). He is married and is raising a family. The other Wes took a small step forward when he joined job corps, but life was still hard for him. He had four kids with different baby mamas and money was tight. He had a habit of selling drugs, which was very dangerous. His story quickly takes a turn for the worst when he commits a terrible murder with his brother. I was on the edge of my seat while reading how the murder panned out. I won't give the details of the murder away here (you should read it), but it was intense and really foolish. The other Wes is now serving life in prison without parole. 

I resonated with this book because I see young people like Wes all the time in the Bronx, and I wonder who these students will become when they grew up. How can students living in the Bronx or other cities of extreme poverty overcome their circumstances and flourish? What is needed to prevent students from falling into a cycle of violence and drugs?

Where does success come from?
Wes, the author, admits that his life could have easily been the same as the other Wes'. At the same time, the other Wes could have led a successful life. Their circumstances were similar and they came from similar backgrounds. Wes' explanation for his success (and what he believes will bring others success) is summed up in one word: people. 
He says, "What changed was that I found myself surrounded by people-- starting with my mom, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, and leading to a string of wonderful role models and mentors- who kept pushing me to see more than what was directly in front of me, to see the boundless possibilities of the wider world and the unexplored possibilities within myself." 

I too credit all my successes to people that God has put in my life. Parents, mentors, friends, teachers, pastors, and family are the reason I am standing strong today. Those are the people who inspire me and help me push on. The students of Hunts Point (in the Bronx) need people to stand by them and encourage them. I hope to stand by some of my students so they will remember that someone is there to be an advocate and support them in life, especially in school.

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