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Men We Reaped


by Jesmyn Ward

Since its inception in 2002, the Tulane Reading Project has created a shared intellectual experience for the entering first-year class through the reading and discussion of a selected book. With a variety of events scheduled throughout the fall semester, the Reading Project creates a campus-wide dialogue on a variety of themes. 

The 2015 Reading Project book selection, Men We Reaped, is a critically acclaimed memoir by National Book Award-winning author and Tulane professor Jesmyn Ward. With vivid prose, Ward examines the lives and untimely deaths of five young men she was close to, including her beloved brother. Her own story provides a poignant counterpoint: a private school education funded by her mother's employer eventually led her to Stanford, two graduate degrees, and literary acclaim. Yet she remains haunted by the memory of these men, and by the role that poverty and racism played in their fates. The work was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by The New York Times, NPR, and Time magazine, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography. The book's content lends itself to a variety of events, including a keynote lecture and informal discussion groups with the author.

As we mark the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the Tulane community will reflect on the concept of resilience through Forum Tulane, a new initiative designed to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and intellectual exploration through a university-wide conversation around a common theme. How do we define resilience? How does individual resilience relate to the resilience of a community? When is resilience not enough? The Reading Project Committee, made up of students, faculty, and staff, agreed that Ward's beautifully written book allows us to look at the theme of resilience from several different perspectives. Men We Reaped is a testament to Ward's own personal resilience: grief for her brother and friends, despair in the wake of Katrina, and literary rejection which caused her to abandon writing for three full years before her first book was published.

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