The Other Wes Moore is a 248-book written by Wes Moore in 2010 and published by Spiegel and Grau. While in his final year at university and after being given a Rhodes Scholar award, Moore learns of another man with whom he shares a name from the newspapers (Moore, para. 1). The man is on his way to prison accused of murdering a police officer.
Moore learns that he shares a great deal with the suspect and not just a name: they are from the same neighborhood, were born almost in the same year, lost their fathers during their childhood and were raised by their mothers, however, their later lives differed immensely.
The Other Wes Moore looks at why the lives of the two men who shared a common background ended so differently. How did Wes Moore end up in the army, speak at the 2008 National Convention, and get employed by Condoleeza Rice while the other Wes Moore was serving time in prison. How did one man achieve so much in life while the other is simply known as the ‘Other’ Wes Moore?
At first glance, The Other Wes Moore looks interesting as the author discovers the odd coincidences between him and the man who is charged with shooting and killing a police officer. These coincidences make Wes Moore wonder how he had evaded the destiny of the other Wes Moore, even though their background was very identical. In a way, the author narrates an “It could have been me” situation.
This interesting introduction would have perhaps prepared the reader for an interesting read, however, Moore opts to examine his life in parallel with that of the other Wes Moore in an attempt to establish where, and most significantly, why, there lives ended up so differently. This comparison makes the book an important read as it brings up a very critical question: What makes many young men, especially black, poor young men from single parent families, take up drug trade as a source of livelihood while knowing the risk that comes with it.
Going through the pages, it is evident that Moore does not have an answer to that question, he writes, “What made the difference?…The truth is that I don’t know” (Moore, pp. 76). He can only point out to the similarity to the background of the two men, and leaves the final decision to the reader.
Although he does not categorically state it, it is evident from Moore’s account of the two lives that the main point of divergence between him and the second Moore is in the way they were brought up by their mothers, and their mother’s own lives. Moore’s mother was brought up by college-educated parents , and she worked hard to create her own success and that of her family.
She moved several times in the struggle to find suitable place where her children would grow up in some degree of comfort, and she worked in many jobs so that her children would have decent education. When she realizes that Moore is on the brink of joining the criminal lifestyle, she sacrifices emotionally and economically and enrolls him in a military school.
In short, she simply refused to yield to the harsh conditions that often encircled them. On the contrary, the second Wes Moore’s mother attempted to fight off the harsh conditions and temptations, but ultimately gave up the struggle. She often leaves Moore behind as she goes to night outs. She quits college after losing her scholarship. Differences at home are squared with beatings. Moore’s older brother gets into the drug business, and soon all three of them are in it: mother and her two sons.
Moore’s argument that he had a similar background with the other Moore is simply unbelievable, and is plainly evident from the first chapter, where we observe the cast differences between in their upbringing. It is easy to understand why the two lives ended up very differently- the Johns Hopkins graduate was born into a loving, closely-knit family with two college-educated parents.
Although his father dies while he was young, the family remained intact and he received immense emotional and financial support from a number of relatives. This is in deep contrast with the second Wes Moore, who is born to a single mother and whose father does not care of him at all.
The two Moores are simply worlds apart but the author does not acknowledge this, maybe he does not comprehend this. Although he admits that having an adult who is invested in your welfare is vital to a child’s healthy development, he does not relate this to his own upbringing and that the second Moore. He had a supportive mother uncle, grandfather and a strong-willed mother while the other Moore was left unattended by his mother from age 8 while his older brother engaged led a criminal lifestyle.
Coming to the end of the book, The Other Wes Moore looks more like a vanity project for the author. The segments on his own life receive more coverage at the expense of that of the second Moore. In the epilogue, Moore dedicates several pages just listing his achievements in life- these are not related to the main topic of the book (why the two men’s lives ended up so differently), neither are they evaluated in any way to increase the readers understanding of the book’s theme- it is simply a listing of the things he has done or accomplished.
The author writes that he “searched for ways to fill that hole, sometimes in places I shouldn’t have looked. I made some tremendous mistakes along the way” (Moore, pp. 168), however, the readers never gets to know of those mistakes while the second Moore’s mistakes are laid bare.
The book also seems to give the author a platform to prove his poor background. He seems frantic to attest to his poor and disadvantaged upbringing- that is contrasted by the fact that he and his brothers attended an expensive private school. This is misleading. His claim that they had run-ins with the law ignores the type and severity of the offenses: the author was scolded by a police officer for spraying a building while the second Moore was arrested for intimidating another child with a knife.
The Other Wes Moore exposes the effect of fatherlessness in the upbringing and fate of children. Both men lost their fathers and were brought up by their mothers in single families, this background greatly affected their future life: one ends up as a university graduate and a Rhodes Scholar while the second is charged with the murder of a policeman.
Although the author tries to argue that they had a similar background, this assertion is misleading: the two men’s early lives were worlds apart. The author also fails in his attempts to prove his poor and disadvantaged background, which is negated by several factors that he seems to ignore. Rather than give the topic a fair outlook, his writing appears biased, focusing on his own strengths and the second Moore’s weaknesses.
Moore, Wes. One Name, Two Fates. 2011. Web. August 14, 2011. < http://theotherwesmoore.com/ >
Moore, Wes. The Other Wes Moore. NY: Spiegel and Grau, 2010