While we’re unable to meet in the theater, we’re taking our book club online. We hope it’ll be a great way to read new books and stay connected. The event for How We Fight for Our Lives will be Friday, May 1 from 5-6pm on Zoom. RSVP here to receive the link.



  • Religion and mythology, between the generations of Jones’ family – Buddhism, Christianity, and Greek myths
  • Desire: “One more good look, that’s all I wanted. And, of course, that’s not all I wanted. But it was all I wanted until I had it.” (18)
  • Love and honesty: “I did exactly what I thought all people who love each other do: I changed the subject; I changed myself; I erased everything I had just said; I erased myself so I could be her son again.” (114)
  • The body as a weapon: “If America was going to hate me for being black and gay, then I might as well make a weapon out of myself.” (130)
  • Poetry, memory and memoir: from Jones’ poem “A Memory“:

I’m just a memory now.
But history has never stopped me from praying.


“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’”

Haunted and haunting, How We Fight for Our Lives is a stunning coming-of-age memoir. Jones tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his family, into passing flings with lovers, friends, and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

An award-winning poet, Jones has developed a style that’s as beautiful as it is powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a bruise, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one-of-a-kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.

Read “Blue Dress,” a poem Jones describes writing in How We Fight for Our Lives.


Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Award. The poetry collection was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as awards from Lambda Literary and the Publishing Triangle in 2015. Jones was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in Lewisville, Texas. He earned a BA at Western Kentucky University and an MFA at Rutgers University-Newark. He lives in Columbus, Ohio and tweets @TheFerocity.

Get Into It


Interview with Saeed Jones

“Young, queer black people are always first and foremost on my mind. I think it’s important for us to continue that work, be empowered and tell our own stories, because readers need a diverse range of work… I feel honored to be given the opportunity to put another book on that figurative book shelf. We still need so much more.”


Review: How We Fight for Our Lives

This is a touching, heartfelt memoir that isn’t afraid to delve deep into the darkest corners of familial drama and violent, racially charged sexual encounters. How We Fight for Our Lives, much like the man who wrote it, is full of fear but also brave enough to overcome that fear with sheer will.

Close Reading: Some Passages to Spark Conversation


For the first few hours of the party, either I didn’t notice him or the man who would later try to kill me simply hadn’t arrived yet. All night, I was a terrific, bright black mess. […] Looking back, I can see how someone might see me that night and argue that I had it coming–that I had a man like him coming. If that someone was America herself, I can understand how she might rattle off a warning. “That black boy has been too hungry for too long. One of these nights he’s gonna bite off more than he can chew.”

 I will say for myself: America, I did the best I could with what I was given. (129)

[W]hat I wanted was not just the bodies of such men, but their power and what they could use that power to do to the rest of us. The brutal exertion of will, destiny made manifest by the unspoken threat their muscled bodies and white skin posed. I hungered for the power of the all-American man, the Marlboro Man and the Marlboro Man’s firstborn son, the high-school quarterback, the company’s future CEO, Ernest Hemingway, John Wayne, Odysseus, Hercules, Achilles, the shield itself, the stone-cut archetype, the goddamned Everyman, the golden boy, the one. (129)

If standing over the unconscious body of a man who, just moments before, had tried to bash my head in is the closest I will ever come to feeling like a god, I can say now that I understand how a god might look down at a mortal man and love him all the more, precisely because of his vulnerability. There was no part of Daniel left to hide from me. I’d seen how much he wanted another man; I’d seen the storm he’d been struggling his entire life to contain; I’d seen how much he feared and raged against himself; I’d seen so much more of myself in him than I ever could’ve expected when I first saw him. I didn’t know real men hurt the way I’d been hurting. (135)


If I couldn’t actually be the one myself, I thought I could survive by devouring him whole. The more “straight,” the more “masculine,” the more I wanted to see him with his legs spread or up, back arched in an orgasm that didn’t just bring him pleasure but a warning: In spite of the man you say you are, in the Future I live in, men like me are coming to conquer you and we will take no prisoners. This is what I thought it meant to be a man fighting for his life. If America was going to hate me for being black and gay, then I might as well make a weapon out of myself. (129-130)

It wasn’t like he was beating me, exactly. He was beating the desire I had brought out in him, shoving it back down to where it usually hid. There, on the floor under him, when I looked up at Daniel, I didn’t see a gay brasher; I saw a man who thought he was fighting for his life. […] Like a driver too drunk to tense up as his car collides with another, I was too drunk to realize I was the one who was supposed to be fighting. Or maybe I knew and still didn’t care. (134)


The novel turned me on. I didn’t know books were capable of anything like this. Until now, I had liked reading but it was just something you did. A good thing, like drinking water on a hot day, but nothing special. Holding Another Country in my hands, I felt that the book was actually holding me. Sad, sexy, and reeking of jazz, the story had its arm around my waist. I could walk right into the scene, take off my clothes, and join one of the couples in bed. I could taste their tongues. (4)

If I wasn’t in class or in a stranger’s bed, I’d pack a lunch and go to the deepest reaches of the library stacks, weaving through one room after another until it seemed I was the only person around. I’d stay down there for hours, reading poetry collections, eating, taking naps, reading some more, before I had to go back to class or practice. My favorite room in the stacks had one tiny square window revealing people’s shoes as they unwittingly walked by. It felt good to be a secret, waiting to be unearthed. (115)


A joke I used to repeat in those days was: Why be happy when you can be interesting? I knew how to be interesting. There was power in being a spectacle, even a miserable spectacle. The punch and the line. Interesting: sentences like serrated blades, laughter like machine-gun rounds, a drink in one hand, a borrowed cigarette in the other. If you could draw enough glances, any room could orbit around you. (127)

I was smart enough to understand that my loneliness tended to drive me away from people like her and the gay couple rather than toward them, but I wasn’t grown-up enough to understand why. (131)

Standing in front of the mirror, my reflection and I were like rival animals, just moments away from tearing each other limb from limb. (116)

By now, I knew the ins and outs of names that were not mine and how to wear them like bodies. Every time I met a man for sex, a new name blossomed in my mouth like a flower I could pull out from between my parted lips and hand to the stranger standing in front of me. The names made me into whoever I needed to be for them. (100)


People don’t just happen. We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The “I” it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, “I am no longer yours.” My grandmother and I, without knowing it, were faithfully following a script that had already been written for us. A woman raises a boy into a man, loving him so intensely that her commitment finally repulses him. (35)

She hugged me one more time, then got into the rental car without another word. She started to pull away before I could even register whether to laugh, or to chase her down with the thousand questions still on my mind. We did this to one another, shocking each other to distract both of us from an impending ache. It worked, in a sense. I just stood in the empty parking space, noticing that the air was thick with the chatter of cicadas. It hadn’t occurred to me how much I would miss her until she was already gone. (82-83)