Friday, 18 September 2020

How We Fight For Our Lives by: Saeed Jones

Genre: Memoir
Published: October 8, 2019 by: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 192
Rating: 5/5 stars
CW: racism, homophobia, predatory behaviour onto minors, grief

Saeed Jones is an esteemed poet who blends poetry and prose into a powerful memoir. Jones tells the story of his life as a boy in the deep South, dealing with a tumultuous but strong relationship with his family members, and his own identity as a queer Black man. How We Fight For Our Lives is a story of coming into ones identity, of losing people close to you, and of navigating a world that privileges some, and marginalizes others.

I love a good memoir. I especially love a memoir that intertwines different genres to get its message across. Saeed Jones is known by most to be a poet. In his memoir, he uses his gifts as a poet and a writer to craft a memoir that makes an impact. Not only does it make an impact, it makes a statement. Even though this book is chilling and at times very graphic, I still think if you can handle the subject matter, it is worth the read.

This memoir doesn't read like non-fiction. By this I mean that Jones doesn't simply regurgitate moments from his childhood without any substance. He is able to tap deep into his thoughts and feelings within each moment in his past that he talks about. The ways in which he writes is lyrical and enthralling. The book takes you on a stream of consciousness journey. I could not put it down once I started.

I read this book shortly after the murder of George Floyd. People were emphasizing the need to read more books by Black authors, and specifically Black queer authors. I saw someone recommend this book and decided to go into it without knowing much of who Jones was. But I emerged knowing so much about Jones and wanting to know even more. I am inspired by the way he writes. I love how he is able to incorporate intersections of race and queerness in his works. He shows how these two concepts are highly connected. I can see this book being studied in queer theory courses, because not only was it educational, but it is a critical look at race and queer relations in the United States.

*Side note, after I finished this memoir I wanted to research Jones' other works, and I came across this article he wrote for GQ regarding the Black Lives Matter protests. It was so incredible, I would encourage you all to read it:

Whose Grief? Our Grief

This book deals with some tough subject matter, so I would suggest going into it after knowing of the content warnings. However, if you are looking for a memoir to take your breath away, look no further. I think this is a memoir that everyone should read.

Have you read How We Fight For Our Lives? What did you think?

Emily @ Paperback Princess


  1. If this book is half as powerful as that article, it's a force to be reckoned with.

  2. I hadn't heard about this one! I'll have to put it on my TBR

  3. I don't typically read memoirs, but this one looks appealing. Especially because you said it does not read like one. I think a nonfiction book succeeds most when you forget you are reading a real story. I lived in the South for years and have witnessed the bigotry and closed mindedness of people there firsthand. What a fantastic review, Emily!

    1. I never used to really care about memoirs, but in the past year I have read so many compelling memoirs that now it is one of my favourite genres. I would so recommend this. Thanks Erin!