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Other Wes Moore (Moore)

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates
Wes Moore, 2010
Random House
315 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780385528191


Summary
Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in the same decaying city within a year of each other. One grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, 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 of 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes Scholarship.  The same paper ran a huge story about four young men who had 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 of their names was Wes Moore

Wes Moore, the Rhodes Scholar, became obsessed with the story of this man he’d never met but who shared much more than space in the same newspaper.  Both had grown up in similar neighborhoods and had had difficult childhoods. After following the story of the robbery, the manhunt, and the trial to its conclusion, he finally he wrote a letter to the other Wes, now a convicted murderer serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.  His letter tentatively asked the questions that had been haunting Wes: Who are you? Where did it go wrong for you? How did this happen? 

That letter led to a correspondence and deepening 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: they were both fatherless, were both in and out of school; they’d hung out onsimilar corners with similar crews, and had run into trouble with the police. And they had both felt a desire for something better for themselves and their families—and the sense that something better was always just out of reach. At each stage of their young lives, they came across similar moments of decision that would alter their fates

Told in alternating dramatic narratives that take readers from heartwrenching 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. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio 
Birth—1978
Where—Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Reared—Bronx, New York, New York
Education—B.A., Johns Hopkins University; M. Litt, Oxford
   University
Awards—Rhodes Scholar
Currently—lives in New Jersey


Wes Moore is a Rhodes Scholar and a combat veteran of Afghanistan. As a White House Fellow, he worked as a special assistant to Secretary Condoleezza Rice at the State Department. He was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, was named one of Ebony magazine’s Top 30 Leaders Under 30 (2007), and, most recently, was dubbed one of the top young business leaders in New York by Crain’s New York Business. He works in New York City. (From the publisher.)

More
Wes Moore is a youth advocate, Army combat veteran, promising business leader and author.

Wes graduated Phi Theta Kappa as a commissioned officer from Val­ley Forge Military College in 1998 and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations. At Johns Hopkins he was honored by the Maryland College Football Hall of Fame. He completed an M Litt in International Relations from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 2004. Wes was a para-trooper and Captain in the United States Army, serving a combat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the elite 1st Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division in 2005–2006.

Wes spear­headed the American strategic support plan for the Afghan Reconciliation Program that unites former insurgents with the new Afghan Government. He is recognized as an authority on the rise and ramifica-tions of radical Islamism in the Western Hemisphere. A White House Fellow from 2006–2007, Wes served as a Special Assistant to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Following his time at the White House, Wes became an investment professional in New York at Citigroup, focusing on global technology and alternative investments. In 2009 he was selected as an Asia Society Fellow. Moore was named one of Ebony magazine’s “Top 30 Leaders Under 30” for 2007 and Crain’s New York Business “40 Under 40 Rising Stars” in 2009.

Wes is passionate about supporting U.S. veterans and examining the roles education, mentoring and public service play in the lives of American youth. He serves on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and founded an organization called STAND! through Johns Hopkins that works with Baltimore youth involved in the criminal justice system. Wes was a featured speaker at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and addressed the crowd from Invesco Field. He has also spoken at the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Business Plan Competition, Southern Regional Conference of the National Society of Educators, the education reform session of the third annual Race & Reconciliation in America conference, and the first 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

He has been featured by such media outlets as People magazine, the New York Times, Washington Post, CSPAN, and MSNBC, amongst others. Wes’ first book, The Other Wes Moore, was published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, in 2010.

Wes Moore was born in 1978 and was three years old when his father, a respected radio and television host, died in front of him. His mother, hoping for a better future for her family, made great sacrifices to send Wes and his sisters to private school. Caught between two worlds—the affluence of his classmates and the struggles of his neighbors—Wes began to act out, succumbing to bad grades, suspensions, and delinquencies. Desperate to reverse his behavior, his mother sent him to military school in Pennsylvania. After trying to escape five times, Wes finally decided to stop railing against the system and become accountable for his actions. By graduation six years later, Moore was company commander overseeing 125 cadets.

On Decem­ber 11, 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran an article about how Wes, despite his troubled childhood, had just received The Rhodes Scholarship. At the same time, The Sun was running stories—eventually more than 100 in all—about four African-American men who were arrested for the murder of an off-duty Baltimore police officer during an armed robbery. One of the men convicted was just two years older than Wes, lived in the same neighborhood, and in an uncanny turn, was also named Wes Moore.

Wes wondered how two young men from the same city, who were around the same age, and even shared a name, could arrive at two com­pletely different destinies. The juxtaposition between their lives, and the questions it raised about accountability, chance, fate and family, had a profound impact on Wes. He decided to write to the other Wes Moore, and much to his surprise, a month later he received a letter back. He visited the other Wes in prison over a dozen times, spoke with his family and friends, and discovered startling parallels between their lives: both had difficult childhoods, they were both fatherless, were having trouble in the classroom; they’d hung out on similar corners with similar crews, and had run into trouble with the police. Yet at each stage of their lives, at similar moments of decision, they would head down different paths towards astonishingly divergent destinies. Wes realized in their two stories was a much larger tale about the conse-quences of personal responsibility and the imperativeness of education and community for a generation of boys searching for their way.

Seeking to help other young people to redirect their lives, Wes is committed to being a positive influence and helping kids find the support they need to enact change. Pointing out that a high school student drops out every nine seconds, Wes says that public servants—the teachers, mentors and volunteers who work with our youth—are as imperative to our national standing and survival as are our armed forces. “Public service does not have to be an occupation,” he says, “but it must be a way of life.”

Moore lives with his wife Dawn in New Jersey. (From the author's website.)



Book Reviews
The author emphasizes that the point of his book is not to depict a "good" Wes Moore and a "bad" Wes Moore. He says he wanted to illustrate not the differences between their lives but the similarities, particularly what it's like to grow up without a father in the house — an experience he shares with an estimated one out of three children, according to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau data. Moore's hope is that his story will encourage Americans to step in at crucial moments to help other troubled 12-year-olds. "It's not a race issue," he says. "It's a national issue which threatens the future of the United States. We're spending billions on prisons. Mathematically, it's unsustainable."
Deirdre Donahue - USA Today


(Starred review.) Two hauntingly similar boys take starkly different paths in this searing tale of the ghetto. Moore, an investment banker, Rhodes scholar, and former aide to Condoleezza Rice, was intrigued when he learned that another Wes Moore, his age and from the same area of Greater Baltimore, was wanted for killing a cop. Meeting his double and delving into his life reveals deeper likenesses: raised in fatherless families and poor black neighborhoods, both felt the lure of the money and status to be gained from dealing drugs. That the author resisted the criminal underworld while the other Wes drifted into it is chalked up less to character than to the influence of relatives, mentors, and expectations that pushed against his own delinquent impulses, to the point of exiling him to military school. 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


(Starred review.) The author examines eight years in the lives of both Wes Moores to explore the factors and choices that led one to a Rhodes scholarship, military service, and a White House fellowship, and the other to drug dealing [and] prison.... Moore ends this haunting look at two lives with a call to action and a detailed resource guide. —Vanessa Bush
Booklist



Discussion Questions 
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for The Other Wes Moore:

1. How well does Moore describe the culture of the streets, where young boys grow up believing that violence transforms them into men? Talk about the street culture—its violence, drug dealing, disdain for education. What creates that ethos and why do so many young men find it attractive?

2. In writing about the Wes Moore who is in prison, Wes Moore the author says, "The chilling truth is that his life could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his." What do you make of that statement? Do you think Moore is correct?

3. Oprah Winfrey has said that "when you hear this story, it's going to turn the way you think about free will and fate upside down." So, which is it...freedom or determinism? If determinism, what kind of determinism—God, cosmic fate, environment, biology, psychology? Or if freedom, to what degree are we free to choose and create our own destiny?

4. The overriding question of this book is what critical factors in the lives of these two men, who were similar in many ways, created such a vast difference in their destinies?

5. Talk about the role of family—and especially the present or absence of fathers—in the lives of children. Consider the role of the two mothers, Joy and Mary, as well as the care of the author's grandparents in this book.

6. Why did young Wes, who ran away from military school five times, finally decide to stay put?

7. Why was the author haunted by the story of his namesake? What was the reason he insisted on meeting him in prison? Talk about the awkwardness of the two Weses' first meeting and their gradual openness and sharing with one another.

8. From prison, the other Wes responded to the author's initial letter with his own letter, in which he said, "When you're in here, you think people don't even know you're alive anymore." Talk about the power of hope versus hopelessness for those imprisoned. What difference can it make to a prisoner to know that he or she is remembered?

8. The author Wes asked the prisoner Wes, "when did you first know you were a man?" Talk about the significance of that question...and how each man responded.

9. Has this book left you with any ideas for ameliorating the conditions that led to the imprisonment of the other Wes Moore? What can be done to ensure a more productive life for the many young men who grow up on the streets?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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