In Name Only

What's in a name? Wes Moore's memoir recounts the events of two men with the same name whose lives couldn't possibly be more different.

Lots of people have a namesake and, more often than not, the similarity ends there. Not so for Jersey City resident Wes Moore, author of The Other Wes Moore (Spiegel & Grau, 2010). He and his namesake had a lot in common. They are from the same Baltimore neighborhood, are around the same age, both are African-American, and both were raised by single mothers.

Today, though, their lives couldn’t be more different. The author, 31, is an investment banker, a Rhodes scholar, and a former army officer and White House Fellow. The other Moore is serving life in a maximum-security prison.

After reading a newspaper account of the robbery—which included the murder of a police officer—that landed his namesake in prison, Moore felt an uncanny connection that prompted him to reach out. The narrative chronicles the critical decisions that set the men on divergent paths and highlights the importance of mentoring and guidance. “The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his,” writes Moore.

The book, which includes a resource guide of organizations that mentor and support youths, addresses the consequences of absent fathers, poor self-image, and young people with limited guidance. The key to the author’s success? “I found myself surrounded by people who kept pushing me to see more than what was directly in front of me,” writes Moore, “to see the boundless possibilities of the wider world and the unexplored possibilities within myself.”

Read more Books, Jersey Living articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.