The Other Wes Moore, subtitled "One Name, Two Fates" is a biography (of sorts) by Wes Moore, a decorated veteran of the Afghan War and Rhodes Scholar, detailing the parallels and differences between his life and the life of the titular other Wes Moore, a man with the same name as him, who was born in the same neighborhood as him, at around the same time. Both lived troubled lives as adolescents, but the other Wes Moore ended up living a life of crime, eventually being sentenced to prison for murder. The book was published in 2009, and was used for many libraries reading programs, which is how I learned of it.

The author did his research, and interviewed dozens or hundreds of people to reconstruct the life of the other Wes Moore, and he tells the story well, writing with the detail and characterization of a novel. He captures the scenery and attitudes of what is called "the inner city" well, and he manages to show, in dramatic but not overbearing fashion where he went right and his counterpart went wrong.

And while the story does illustrate concisely the trials and tribulations of African-American youth, and the ways that their lives can be turned around (Wes Moore was steered away from a life of crime because his family had the will and resources to send him to military school), it also doesn't tell me anything that I have not heard before. I don't wish to belittle the story, since it is quite inspirational, but the work is in many ways a fairly standard vision quest/coming of age/bildungsroman story, with the twist of comparing a man who completed his with a man who did not. I think this book is a good primer and guide, but I think there are issues, both personal and social, that it does not touch upon.

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