Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 53: Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped


This week is a Tom pick—Jesmyn Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, which recounts the deaths of five young black men in her hometown of DeLisle, Mississippi. We talk about de facto segregation in the American South, writing about family members, and amateur sociology. We also bring back our Sticks and Stones segment, read a couple more donor rejections, and try to figure out what happens in the 4th dimension.


If you want to take advantage of the special offer code we mentioned in the episode, here’s the place to go to pre-order a copy of Lee Klein’s book, Thanks and Sorry and Good Luck. While you’re there, we hope you’ll consider picking up an issue of Barrelhouse, and also our first poetry collection, Justin Marks’ You’re Going to Miss Me When You’re Bored.

As always, you can stream the episode right here on our site, or download the mp3 file. Or visit us in the iTunes store, where you can subscribe (for free) and never miss another installment.

Download Episode 53 (right-click, save-as)


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

7 thoughts on “Episode 53: Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped

  1. I just happened upon this site as I was looking for material to help me present this book to my grad class at Ole Miss next week. I am a 40-something African American female, and a GRITS (Girl Raised in the South). Your conversation really validated most of what I enjoyed and was confused by in this, seemingly, well-loved book. Thank you for the Tom- and Mike-foolery. And while I am still unsure of what I would rate the book, I would rate this, my first episode, a 4.75.

  2. Thanks, Shelia! Glad to hear the episode was helpful, and that I’m not the only person who had sort of a mixed reaction to the book.

  3. I haven’t read the book but I have it on my list.

    I now want to write ridiculous reviews on Goodreads to see if I can get you to read one on air. Your podcast makes me laugh out loud (can we still write that out) at least once per episode. Thanks, guys.

  4. MDG, I’d love for people to continue to write “laugh out loud” instead of the popular acronym, but maybe that’s because I’m kind of a curmudgeon?

    Thanks for listening to the show, by the way.

  5. I’ll attempt to partly make up for Twitter’s crowd-sourced wisdom:

    Kindred and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Either is a good start with Butler. Like reading Neuromancer post-Matrix, her speculative fiction–which tackles love, slavery, symbiosis–might seem a bit conventional in a world that’s caught up with her aesthetic though.

    The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. A character-driven novel about the beauty of numbers and memory. Ogawa is an intense surrealist who’s currently experiencing some joy in translation.

  6. Thanks, Tim – we’ve both read Kindred (it was one of the standard texts in our comp program). I loved the conceit of it and the thematic issues it raised, but have to confess I didn’t love the sentence-level writing, which I thought was sometimes quite weak. I don’t want to put words in Mike’s mouth, but I’m pretty sure he’s on the same page.

    That said, I feel like I need to give Butler another shot, since so many people think so highly of her.

    Hadn’t heard anything about Ogawa – adding that to the list now.

  7. Howdy here from 2019, this may be a longshot, but what’s the name of the snazzy song that ends this episode? I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

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