Young lives, lost too soon


“Men We Reaped” by Jesmyn Ward; Bloomsbury (272 pages, $26)

Jesmyn Ward’s heart-wrenching new memoir, “Men We Reaped,” is a brilliant book about beauty and death. The beauty is in the bodies and the voices of the young men she grew up with in the towns of coastal Mississippi, where a kind of de facto segregation persists.

“Men We Reaped” is at once a coming-of-age story and a kind of mourning song as Ward describes her upbringing in a poor Mississippi family and the violent, early deaths of five young men who were close to her, including younger brother Joshua. One by one, the young men die. Car accidents, a suicide, a drug overdose, a murder. It’s a painfully tragic story, but also one of community and familial strength.

“Men We Reaped” is the stirring and sad record of that war, a quiet violence that is sweeping through many American communities, but that has not yet destroyed the resilient people who live within them.