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One Name, Two Fates

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates is a memoir with a twist. Wes Moore is a young black man who rose from the drug, crime and poverty-stricken streets of Baltimore to attain prestigious academic honors. The twist is that Wes Moore is also a man who killed a Baltimore policeman while robbing a jewelry store. These two men grew up in the same neighborhood, both faced the same life obstacles, but they ended up on very different paths. One a Rhodes Scholar, interning for Condoleezza Rice, the other was behind bars for the rest of his life. It is the name of the latter individual that drove the author to reach out to him, to attempt to understand how they ended up in very different places.

Set in Baltimore we are given two boys with similar backgrounds and choices. The two Wes’ lived in the same neighborhood, both were raised by single mothers and both had early age brushes with law enforcement. The author believes that he is showing us a paralleling of lives by saying that what happened to the Other Wes Moore could have happened to him, this is not the case but it is interesting. “The Other Wes Moore” is a beautifully written narrative study on the effects of class and that alone makes it unique. Two black youths, who live in the same neighborhood, but in different classes.

The twist is more like a literary hook so-to-speak. Wes Moore’s mother was raised by college educated parents and she would have been a college graduate had it not been for forces beyond her control; his father was no slouch either although he dies early on. When Wes get too rambunctious she had the means to put him into military school. The Other Wes’ life was plagued with poverty and violence inside and outside his home, one day his father just takes off.  As a result of this familial disengagement he ends up having children by multiple women and selling drugs. Here, there is much to be said about “active parenting”.

The story is good, but I was quite disturbed and sadden that two hospitals allowed Race to place a major role in the deaths of two of the story’s characters.  Included in the book is a short ‘call to action’ by Tavis Smiley which will also, like the book, miss its intend mark. “The Other Wes Moore” will not reach the people who need to read it the most. This book is not filled with glorified violent acts, broad shouldered men, barely dressed married-single women, crime lords or thugs trying to get their paper. This book is not a copy of another book with changed names and places. No, it does not remain in the ghetto universe.

Throughout the book the Wes’ dialogue and we are exposed to the realest grit that life has to offer. We see the effects of not having positive mentors urban communities. We see the possibilities. We see the hope, but we also see the hopelessness. As the book ends we are left with these questions:  It is The Other Wes Moore’s fault that he was born into a lower class family? Was it his fault that he became a street urchin? Was it his mothers? His fathers? Or is it just easier to blame them instead the struggle in our society between, The haves and The have nots, The wants and The want mores?

Often these type of narratives make race or racism the deciding factor, “the man was holding me down” or “the opportunities were not there”, this is not so with Wes Moore’s book. These two children lived in the same neighborhood, shared the same obstacles and were divided only by Class. Class and it’s socioeconomic effects are subjects that very few want to discuss. Classism exist in every community, including the black ones. Wes Moore really didn’t need the hook, but I completely understand. And, he never really answers the question, How did this happen? In truth, he doesn’t need to because he knows that the answer is his upbringing. The book does not come across as arrogant, nor pretentious and I hope that this book will open discussions on the class warfare that is prevalent in our society. “The Other Wes Moore”  is less of a textbook for school and more of a textbook for life, so I am including a link to the author’s website, where there are resources for those that want to make a difference in their community, Wes Moore.

Wes Moore forces us to look at an overlooked, much maligned, under represented segment of our population, our children. They are ten percent of our population, but one hundred percent of our future. While adults spend countless hours with electronic doohickeys and bicker over race, politics and other created nonsense a child somewhere needs help with their homework, and another one needs to be told to put down the video game and pick up a book. What “The Other Wes Moore” points out more than anything else is that a child’s life course could be altered by acts as simple as that.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates  is an amazing book and I can’t stress it enough. The way this book is written is worth the read alone. The author’s style is simply beautiful. “The Other Wes Moore” makes you smile, and does much to restore some of the promise that modern literature has lost.

4.5 out of 5

Every day countless authors make the error of thinking that covers don’t matter, well at least it appears that they think that it doesn’t matter. But that is precisely the point, how much time and thought you put behind your book cover can directly translate into sales. It can not be understated that your book’s cover is the most effective sales tool you have. Making an appropriate cover can be very tricky but it must be done.

But what is a good book cover? If you go to your local book store you will see hundreds of approaches to this question. Some try a minimalist approach, while others try to connect to the buyer through images. It is a new day and age in America, times are tough for everyone, so your book cover must say to the consumer “I am worth your disposable cash”.  It is also a new day in publishing, but what still seems to be true is that sex sells. The overdone shirtless model and uncovered sensual body parts still move books from the shelves, but this is not always the case.

Early on in the publishing process you’ll need to decide between photos, illustrations, sketches, computer generated images, 2 color, 4 color, or subliminal messages. You will have to decide on color schemes, what colors looks great against this background and whatnot. The type of cover you decide on usually depends on what kind of book you are publishing is it for children or is it very adult. It can also depend on what everyone else in the marketplace is doing. However, by going against the grain is where the unique cover can really stand out.

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If you don’t have a background in graphics and design it may cost you a little, but you can find many reasonable designers that will give you an original work for as little as $80 or as much as $1500. When I designed my book cover, for EveryDay Life, my mindset was that I wanted to create a book that people could have out on their coffee-table and not feel embarrassed or ashamed about having it out. So for me it started with the question of “Book cover to sell Vs. book cover as Art” I chose Art. Some authors want the cover images to convey what was inside the book and for me, the cover was the longest segment of the publishing process, aside from the actual writing of the book of course. You must decide on the best approach for your work.

Remember that your book will be judged by its cover. If the brick and mortal stores see any hint of an unprofessional cover, a cluttered front, if the cover screams I chose the wrong font because have no idea what I am doing, or my little sister created this cover, your book will be on Special Order so fast your nose will bleed. Error are unavoidable, but I can’t say this enough proofread everything and I mean everything.

Also do not neglect the book spine. Spend as much time creating the book spine as the front cover. You want to be able to read the title on the spine, but keep the same color schemes and fonts. Once the front cover gets someone to pick it up then it is the back cover that hooks them. What goes on the back cover? The synopsis, reviews of previous books, an author photo, bio and any blurb from noted professionals in the business. Usually white type on darker backgrounds is very readable. Make no mistake the back cover is where you will win over the audience.