A story about two young African-American men who share the same name and grew up on the same inner-city streets, but wound up in vastly different places.
Author Wes Moore, a Rhodes Scholar, former Army officer and White House Fellow, works in investment banking. The other Wes Moore, a drug dealer, is imprisoned for life. Both are in their early 30s. Upon reading about the other Wes’s 2000 conviction for armed robbery, the author wondered how the lives of two youths growing up in the same time (1990s) and place (Baltimore) could take such divergent paths. Drawing on conversations with the other Wes and interviews, the author creates an absorbing narrative that makes clear the critical roles that choices, family support and luck play in young people’s lives. The other Wes never knew his father, had a drug-pusher older brother and began dealing at an early age. His mother’s efforts to help were ineffectual. Often arrested—car theft, attempted murder, etc.—the other Wes dropped out of school, fathered four children and tried unsuccessfully to go straight. Then he took part in the store hold-up. The author faced similar challenges, he writes, but had enormous family support and several lucky breaks. He grew up with a devoted mother and two sisters; his father died when the author was very young. In 1984, the family moved to the crack-plagued Bronx to live with his caring grandparents, a minister and a teacher. When the author slipped into the local street life and began receiving poor grades at a private school, his family pooled limited resources and sent him away to a military academy. There he found positive role models, became a cadet commander and star athlete and gained a sense of purpose. Later, with help from several mentors, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Johns Hopkins and attended Oxford. “With no intervention—or the wrong intervention—[young boys] can be lost forever,” the author warns.
A testament to the importance of youth mentoring; includes an afterword by Tavis Smiley and a guide to more than 200 youth-service groups nationwide.