by Sacred Chickens Staff
The Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. This book was first published in 2013 and for some reason, it’s taken me a while to get around to reading it. I think I misplaced it when a friend loaned it to me and it appeared again when I was going through our move, but the central question of the book is just as pressing now, maybe even more so. Ward, who grew up in the small town of DeLisle, Mississippi, mourned as she lost five young men she loved, beginning with her brother, in a space of four years. The truth she discovered was that context can kill. This story is haunting, both for the topic matter it covers, and because the ghosts that she recalls become real and beautiful to the reader. I am now looking for all her other books.
I feel like this book is especially relevant right now, since in recent months we have seen migrant children be detained and placed in cages. This book recounts similar events that took place during World War Two. It's shockingly similar, except somehow worse because most if not all of the people in the Japanese Internment Camps were American citizens, and were put there simply because they were Japanese. The quarters were cramped and shoddy, and the people there were given no time frame or when they would be released, if ever. It's an essential book not only to recount to us a topic that is not talked about much (and should be) but also to remind us of how easy it is for prejudice and fear can bind us to people's humanity.
I have previously recommended a book by Richard Lloyd Parry, In the Time of Madness, a book about a specific time in Indonesia when humans lost their minds to anger and hatred, as the living are wont to do. I must now recommend another of his books, Ghosts of the Tsunami, a carefully examined history the trauma of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011. The book concentrates most fully on a group of school children who were victims of bureaucracy and fear as much as the natural disaster. The book is an elegy to the dead, a lament for those left behind, and a study of the intersection of culture and death. I highly recommend it.