"The Other Wes Moore" by Wes Moore
In December 2000 a small story ran in the Baltimore Sun about a local student named Wes Moore who had received a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. In that same paper was a large story about four men who killed a police officer in a botched armed robbery. The police were searching for two of the suspects, one of whom was named Wes Moore.
The student Wes Moore couldn't shake off the coincidence and wrote a letter to the other Wes who was by then serving a life sentence in jail as a convicted murderer. This led to continued correspondence and a friendship that has lasted years. Over time they came to realize that they had grown up in similar neighbourhoods, were both fatherless, in and out of school and had run into trouble with the police at an early age. So how did their lives take such different paths?
Wes Moore writes both stories in alternating narratives, comparing the crucial stages of their childhoods and adult lives. The similarities are incredible. They both had opportunities to choose a life of crime or a life of success. But they didn't make the same choice.
This book is more than just the story of two young men named Wes Moore. It is the story of a whole generation of boys who have to make the same choices. Every young black male has the opportunity to become the Wes Moore who is a Rhodes Scholar, combat veteran of Afghanistan, and was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Unfortunately, too many young men are instead choosing to become the Wes Moore who is imprisoned for life.
In addition to telling the stories of both men, this book is a call to action. To support and educate our young men, to not let them fall through the cracks. The epilogue of the book is heartbreaking, to see the staggering differences not just between the two men but between their entire families. Too many people are allowing themselves to be victimized by their circumstances rather than rising above them. Because of this, Moore includes a substantial resource guide in the back of the book to help draw attention to the numerous organizations in the United States dedicated to helping young men and women.
The Other Wes Moore is a must read for everyone. Anyone who finds themselves up against difficult circumstances needs to meet these two young men and realize how important it is to make the right decisions to rise out of your circumstances rather than succumb to them.