186 South College

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Month: February 2013 (page 2 of 2)

More Thoughts on “The Other Wes Moore”

by Joshua Sarnecky and Brie Gerry

As much as I love reading, biographies and other forms of non-fiction usually aren’t the books on the top of my wish list; I’d much rather pick up something from Stephen King or Tolkien.  Reading The Other Wes Moore, then, took me a bit out of my literary comfort zone.  Having read plenty of other summer reading biographies (most of them mandatory), I thought I knew what to expect going into this book:  a lot of summary and passive description instead of drama and active depiction.  With those expectations in mind, I was surprised by the detailed situations and complex characters in Moore’s book.

Ironically, most of the non-fiction texts I’ve read don’t have these elements, which has always perplexed me since real life and real people experience tremendous levels of drama, tragedy, comedy, and triumph every day.  Seeing these incongruities, I’ve always felt that fictional accounts did a better job of capturing these aspects of the human experience.  But The Other Wes Moore manages to give more than just an overview of both Wes Moores’ lives; the story truly does get to the heart of each man’s experience, providing a magnifying glass through which readers can observe each man’s journey and the realities of city life, poverty, teenage pregnancy, the drug trade, and delinquency.   Wes Moore succeeds in bringing his book’s tagline to life, revealing the tragedy and chilling truth that the protagonists’ lives could have been switched.

The book’s depiction of life in the darker corners of Baltimore and the Bronx, however, moved me more as a Psychology major than a reader.  When thinking of Baltimore, many people would imagine the Inner Harbor, the aquarium, and the city’s championship football team, but Moore’s book presents a very different side of the city.  And Baltimore isn’t the only city with more than one face; every city in America (if not the world) experiences an unfortunate dichotomy of affluence and poverty.

As Wes Moore mentions in his Afterword, though, this cause for concern is likewise a call for action.  If a lack of strong positive mentors was the deciding difference between the protagonists, as Wes Moore the author suggests, then we as readers can figure out what needs to be done.  If we want to answer these issues, we must get behind those politicians who support educational and social programs that keep kids in school and adults at work.  We must support organizations that help the country’s impoverished and underprivileged youth.  We must realize that we have a responsibility to aid our community.  We must be the role models that both Wes Moores so desperately needed but only one found.

The Other Wes Moore wasn’t the book I expected, but I don’t expect that to change my preference for fiction over non-fiction.  What I do expect, though, is for readers to look at the problems of inner-city life with more awareness and understanding.  And I hope that no one reading this book expects these issues to solve themselves.  If we expect change, we first have to change the expectations we have for ourselves and our roles in society.

Guest Blogger Josh Sarnekcy with Youdee!

I don’t think I can remember the last time I read a book for fun (and more specifically, one that wasn’t a textbook).  However, I finally broke my streak, which has probably been ongoing since at least last spring break.

When I picked up The Other Wes Moore, the idea of this-is-a-story-about-two-people-with-the-same-name sparked my interest, primarily because I’m fairly certain I’ll never meet anyone with my name.  I was expecting a dramatic narrative detailing how two men ended up in radically different places, and as a science-minded person, it appeared to be a classic nature-versus-nurture scenario.  But once I started reading, I was shocked at the role that seemingly unimportant nuances in each Wes’s environment – considering that they grew up within blocks of one another – played in the paths each would follow.

Of course I’ve read books and stories that have been thought-provoking about a couple topics or a central theme, but The Other Wes Moore got my mind rolling with questions on a vast array of subjects.  I’ve re-written this blog at least four (or was it three?) different times because I couldn’t settle on a topic. Why? Because the book is so complex beyond the simple story-telling.

With the author Wes Moore as a highly accomplished Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow and the other Wes Moore being a convicted murderer currently serving a life sentence, the nature-versus-nurture debate is only one of many different themes the story touches upon.  How does poverty interplay with education? How do federal budget cuts on education affect the individual? The mother of the convict Wes might have had the chance to move to a better place had she been able to complete her education.  Meanwhile, how does urban drug culture shape the lives of young adults, teenagers, and children? As a review on the book’s back cover points out, another excellent point of Mr. Moore’s story is “how it feels to be a boy growing up in a world where violence makes you a man.”

So why should you engage in some positive procrastination and read this book? First, it’s a quick read, so you’ll quickly get back to that problem set, essay, or reading you’re supposed to be doing. Second, there are pictures (and who doesn’t like pictures in books!).  And third, I bet you’ll catch yourself wondering when exactly one Wes’s life diverges from the other or wonder about all the decisions and moments that have led you to where you are now, even to reading this blog.

Don’t like reading but I’ve got you interested anyways? Come see Wes Moore speak on campus February 20th!  Did I mention he also served a tour of combat duty in Afghanistan? And now he’s a bestselling author, too. At 34 years old, Mr. Moore has accomplished more than most people accomplish in a lifetime, and I’m excited to hear him speak.

Lesson learned: I should read books a little more often.

Guest Blogger Brie Gerry is an Honors Program Writing Fellow and a Blue Hen Ambassador.

 

 

 

 

A Google Experiment and a Broken Procrastinator: Thoughts on The Other Wes Moore

by Tony Narisi and Ramya Sridharan

After reading The Other Wes Moore, I performed a Google search on my own full name, Anthony Narisi.  Initially, all I received was a brief moment of existential alarm courtesy of switchboard.com’s message, “There is 0 person(s) in the US/Canada named Anthony Narisi.”  However, upon further inspection, I was assured that I am indeed a person, uncovering YouTube videos of myself performing improv comedy and time sheets from my middle school track meets (quickly replacing my existential jitters with crippling angst when I found out the record I had set in eighth grade was broke only one year later.)  In addition to these, I ran into a wealth of information about the Archbishop Wood High School and Albright College football programs.  But the Anthony Narisi involved with these is not me.  Rather, it is my cousin, born just five days after me, who was described to me in my youth as “looking just like you, except way better at basketball.”

So, is this tale of two Anthony Narisis worthy of the same pondering as that of the two Wes Moores?  Well, not really.  About the only thing that would come out of an examination of our two lives would be me repeatedly assuring myself that I could be athletic and coordinated and have a committed long-term relationship with a girl if I really wanted to do those things, I just don’t want—oops, there I go already.

Back to the point… Wes Moore’s story is not necessarily just a story of “One Name, Two Fates” as the front cover puts it.  The Wes Moores share more than just a coincidence of names—they grew up in the same neighborhood without a father, with similar groups of peers pressuring them, and many other parallels.  Rather than looking at trivial differences like those present between my cousin and me, Moore asks us to look at what can drive two people from similar backgrounds into drastically different lives.  Looking at my own life, an example of a more appropriate question to ask is why was I entering the University of Delaware while the kid from up the block who I used to hang out with every day after school was entering rehab with an arrest record?

However, even this type of examination is only scratching the surface of what Moore is trying to say.  After an in-depth examination of his and the other Wes’s stories, Moore comes to the conclusion that “very few lives hinge on any single moment.”  This may seem to be an unsatisfactory answer, but ultimately it is the truth—an extremely complicated blend of internal and external factors, including sheer luck, acts on every person in the world at every moment, and all of these moments pile up to create the factors in one’s life.  While it is impossible to save everybody, Moore argues (and I agree) that people should work to positively influence as many people as they can by sharing information and stories so that others may listen and hopefully change their ways before it is too late, as it now is for the other Wes Moore.

Guest Blogger Tony Narisi is a Writing Fellow for the University of Delaware Honors Program.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It could have been the other “anybody,” although, admittedly, “The Other John Smith,” sounds rather uninvitingly blasé. Moreover, I have come across two other people having the same unique ethnic name as myself and have never felt a burning need to write about them.

So, what makes this book so special? Some would ask, “What made Wes Moore want to write about his youth and the other Wes Moore’s youth and how different their lives ended up from similar roots?” I do not care about that question. That is not the correct question to ask as a reader. In fact, Wes Moore answers that question in his interview at the end of the book. Instead, I would ask, “Why did I read the book? Why couldn’t I put it down?” Neither Wes Moore could answer that question.

Truthfully, I began reading the book to procrastinate. It was the worst decision I could make. As an experienced procrastinator, this book broke me. I was trying to find moments of time to read the book, which required that I organize my schedule and actually stick to it. The story was too honest and raw. The author was too open and conversational. The characters were too memorable and relatable. I quailed under its ability to wrap me up and take me on a journey in every chapter, every sentence.

I would not give the book “two thumbs way up,” or demand that it is a “must read,” or praise it with other silly nonsense that advertisers use for every lowly chump of a book out there. Instead, I will say something that the majority of my generation will understand. This book will go on my bookshelf next to my set of Harry Potter books, and my children will read this, enough said.

Guest Blogger Ramya Sridharan is a Writing Fellow for the University of Delaware Honors Program.

Our Favorite Winter Session Study Abroad Pictures from 2013

I spent this past winter session in London studying English and theatre! The London ENGL/THEA study abroad program was a whirlwind of a month across the pond. I saw 11 shows between class and my free time, and visited countless galleries and museums, which are mostly free to the public. Among the many things that I will never forget is the first time I heard Big Ben, the giant bell inside the famous clock tower, chime. I was watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on a particularly dreary Sunday, a ceremony in which the palace guards on duty are relieved and a new set of guards take their places. While the guard band was taking a short break between songs, I heard a low, rumbling “GONG” coming from the distance. I turned my head and through the fog I saw the clock tower with both of its hands pointing up. Big Ben was striking noon. It is one of the most poignant memories I have of this past winter session.
~Mary Jean, Honors Human Services Major, Class of 2014

Photo by Nikki Gomes, from her trip to Granada Spain

We loved Nikki’s pictures so much we wanted to include another one!
submitted by Nikki Gomes, from her trip to Granada, taken by Nina Raspa

Spring Comes to UD

 

Photos for this post are credited to Kelli Lynn Shermeyer.

 

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