So much happens in this relatively short book, there are so many shrewd details, that it could have simply been a straightforward memoir of Ms. Ward’s life ... This at times somber book is also shot through with life, with a sense of rural community and what it felt like to be adolescent and footloose on hot Mississippi nights, all the beer cans and weed and loud music and easy sex and rolled-down car windows ... Ms. Ward occasionally presses her thumb down too hard on this material, forcing meanings that were plain already, but these lapses are rare ... Men We Reaped reaffirms Ms. Ward’s substantial talent. It’s an elegiac book that’s rangy at the same time.
Men We Reaped is a somber, slender book about grief and mourning and the blight of racism and poverty in DeLisle, Miss. ... An often beautiful book, perhaps most moving when Ward writes about growing up in food-stamp-level poverty and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage. It also puts the full beam of Ward’s literary vision on the lives and expectations of rural black people in the Deep South, perhaps one of the smallest bookshelves in the library ... She’s great at describing her familial migration and disintegration — her tact is more literary than journalistic, and it works.
Jesmyn Ward's superb memoir Men We Reaped finds powerful new meaning in Tubman's words, which serve as a still-relevant metaphor for the Southern black American experience ... Ward's deceptively conversational prose masks her uncommon skill at imagery. She makes you feel the anguish of each lost life, as well as her survivor's guilt, with its ever-present haunt of memory ... Ward capably, sensitively covers many important subjects — from the fragility of African-American manhood, to the expectations of familial responsibility, to the difficulties of living in both the white and black worlds ... In each vignette, she's often silent, but always watching and processing. She's candid enough to paint the flaws in the deceased as well as their good qualities...She's also talented enough to turn such prose into poetry.