The Jon Bennet Ramsey case blew up while I was a teenager in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I remember how the nightly news was filled with story after story of the search for the little beauty queen, and then endless months of criminal investigation coverage. But I remember even more vividly, how I read a tiny, buried story about one little girl, named Sade Terry, who had died at the hands of her own parents—the result of ongoing child abuse. I remember researching her short, poverty-stricken life, writing a column about her neglected story, and even going to visit her grave. It was one of the first times that I really delved into the ways in which we, as Americans, as media consumers, as media producers, behave as if some stories matter and some stories don’t.
I was reminded of that critical experience and realization while reading Wes Moore’s affecting book, The Other Wes Moore. Here’s a book trailer of sorts to give you as sense of the content:
The book is one of those easily digested, beautifully-written nonfiction accounts that reads like a novel. Moore adeptly moves back and forth between his own story and the story of the other Wes Moore.
Reading between the lines, I can see that the author took great pains not to insert any judgment into this narrative. On the one hand, I think that’s incredibly valuable. This isn’t a story about how personal responsibility, nor is it one exclusively about systemic injustice. It’s all there, in subtle, interesting ways. On the other hand, there were times when I think the narrative was begging for a heavier hand, a more decisive conclusion, from Moore. After living with these twin stories for so long, he still never definitively points out what he believes separated their fates. Was it education? Mothering? Fathering? Peers? All of the above?
Regardless, this is an incredibly valuable book written by an engaged, courageous man. I hope it will be read—not just by sociologists and students, teachers and commentators—but policy makers who still play such a huge role in shaping contrasting paths like these.