The Other Wes Moore is a moving nonfiction story that follows the opposing dramatic narratives of two different men who happen to have the same name. It is a great book to introduce students to biographies or memoirs. The compelling narrative exemplifies how nonfiction works can be just as interesting as novels can.

Although both men's current-day lives are contradictory, their upbringings were very similar. They both faced difficulties related to urban poverty, race, and absent fathers; however, The Other Wes Moore illustrates how mentoring and guidance, or lack thereof, can significantly affect people's lives. The parallels and differences between Wes Moore and the other Wes Moore lend themselves to a lesson on the idea of nature versus nurture and whether these men's lives could have been truly interchangeable.

This story also examines masculinity and femininity. Without fathers to act as male role models, the young men try to create and assert their masculinity while being influenced by the women in their lives. This aspect of the book lends itself to discussion on how masculinity and femininity are cultivated and how these ideas of gender can be developed in beneficial or negative ways. Moreover, these notions on gender depict another factor, which, when developed slightly differently, can have profound consequences later in life.

Content Warning

This book contains some crude language and references to drugs, sex, and violence.

Summary

Wes Moore lives in the same town as another Wes Moore, but certain actions within their lives result in very different consequences. Interestingly, these instances overlap each other when they are both ran in the local newspaper on the same day. One Wes Moore is in the paper because of his recent accomplishment receiving the Rhodes Scholarship. The other is being searched for because of his involvement in the murder of a cop. The coincidence stirs Wes Moore, and he reaches out to the other Wes Moore who, at the time of the visit, has been put into prison for life. Throughout the story, the narrator shows the lives of two boys, and later, men, who had grown up in similar circumstances, but ended up in completely different places.

Objectives for Teaching
The Other Wes Moore

  • Analyze how the absence of fathers and the different reasons for their absences affected the two Wes Moores.
  • Discuss the concept of nature versus nurture in relation to the similar yet different lives of both men.
  • Consider the significance of education in this book.
  • Identify the meaning of the symbols used throughout the novel.
  • Elucidate the role of forgiveness and revenge in the text.
  • Consider the men's attitudes toward women and what the memoir suggests about the importance of women in the family.
  • Examine how perceived cultural expectations of masculinity influence the young men's behavior.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Dramatic Narrative
  • Foreshadowing
  • Point of View
  • Memoir
  • Symbolism

Themes and Motifs

  • Poverty — Both of the Wes Moores encounter situations in which they are greatly affected by poverty and their economic situations.
  • Race — Similar to the way poverty impacts both men in the story, racial issues influence their lives as well.
  • Family —  Parental roles and the roles of family within the lives of the two Wes Moores greatly shape what happens to them and where they end up in life. Their family situations also connect them to each other. The economic circumstances that parents or siblings create affect everyone else within the family.

Related Works

Theme of Poverty

 

Theme of Race

 

Theme of Family

Key Facts

  • Length: 250 pages
  • Lexile Measure: 990
  • Publication Date: 2010
  • Recommended Grade Band: 9 – 12

Awards

  • Selected as the "common read" for a number of colleges and cities
  • New York Times bestsellor (2010)

Your students will love:

  • Considering how two people's lives can parallel and diverge
  • The memoir style

Students may have problems with:

  • Keeping track of the alternating dramatic narratives
  • Following the time skips
  • Limited exploration into why the two Wes Moores' lives diverged

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