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Book Discussion Questions: The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore

The Other Wes Moore book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.


Title: The Other Wes Moore
Author: Wes Moore
Page Count: 233
Genre:  Memoir, pop sociology
Tone: Moving, fast-paced, thoughtful


1. What drove author Wes Moore to write to the prisoner Wes Moore? Why do you think prisoner Wes Moore wrote the author back?

2. Have you ever, or would you ever, write a prisoner? Why or why not?

3. What was the fate of author Wes Moore’s father? Do you think his father might have survived under other circumstances? (p. 15)

4. What was the fate of prisoner Wes Moore’s father?

5. What significance did fathers play in the lives of both Wes Moores?

6. Did both Wes Moores have strong mother figures? Do you think both mothers tried their best? Is there anything that either of them could have done differently?

7. Do you think one Wes Moore had a stronger family unit or a better support system while growing up? How can having a strong support system change a child’s life?

8. Outside of his family, who warned author Wes Moore about the bad path he was on? (police officer after he got caught tagging) Did Moore heed this warning? For how long? Why didn’t the change stick?

9. Author Wes Moore states, “Later in life I learned that the way many governors projected the numbers of beds they’d need for prison facilities was by examining the reading scores of third graders.” (p. 54) How did reading this make you feel? Why?

10. What allowed author Wes Moore to go to better schools than prisoner Wes Moore?

11. Author Wes Moore states, “Soon it became clear that the Riots were about more than the tragic death of Dr. King. They were about anger and hurt so extreme that rational thought was thrown out the window – these were people so deranged by frustration that they were burning down their own neighborhood.” (p. 19) Does this “deranged frustration” make sense to you? Are there places today’s America that feel like this?

12. Author Wes Moore talks about the Bronx in the 1980s and early 1990s as an apocalyptic place to be with drugs, burned out buildings, and crime everywhere. Are there still cities like this today? What causes cities to crumble like this? How does living in a neighborhood like this affect a person?

143. At what ages did both Wes Moores start to “go wrong”? Were you surprised by how young they were? What kind of crimes was author Wes Moore into? What about prisoner Wes Moore?

14. What was your first impression of author Wes Moore? What about your first impression of prisoner Wes Moore?

15. How did each Wes Moore respond to danger and aggression? Were their reactions the same?

16. How did Tony try to dissuade prisoner Wes Moore from following his illegal path? Why did it work or not work?

17. At one point, Mary, prisoner Wes Moore’s mother, flushed his drugs down the toilet. What did you think of her actions? Was it enough? Would you have done anything different?

18. Military school obviously benefited author Wes Moore. Do you think there were any other paths that could have set him on the straight and narrow?

19. Prisoner Wes Moore joined Job Corps. Did it help him? What did he go on to do after he exited the program? Why?

20. Prisoner Wes Moore continued to proclaim innocence, saying he wasn’t there for the robbery. Do you think the author believed him? Did you believe him? Do you think he should have been sentenced to life in prison?

21. What did author Wes Moore go on to do after exiting military school?

22. What do you think was the defining factor of why author Wes Moore stepped out of his cycle of destruction and prisoner Wes Moore did not?

23. What does education have to do with the path that each Wes Moore landed on then continued on?

24. What does racial privilege have to do with the stories of both Wes Moores?

25. What does economic privilege have to do with the stories of both Wes Moores?

26. Are racial privilege and economic privilege tied together? How so or how not?

27. Was there a topic you wished the author delved deeper into?

28. After the epilogue, there is “A Call to Action”. What is this section about? Why do you think the author put it in the book? Did reading The Other Wes Moore make you feel called to action? What other books have made you want to take action in the world?

29. If someone enjoyed reading The Other Wes Moore, what books would you recommend to them?

30. Are there any documentaries you would recommend to someone who enjoyed this book?


Other Resources

Author Wes Moore’s website
Lit Lovers’ book discussion questions
Wikispace guide to The Other Wes Moore
Brooklyn Public Library hosts Wes Moore
Interview with the Open Society Foundation
Interview with Oprah
Interview with Salon


If you liked The Other Wes Moore, try…

There are no Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough

There Are No Children Here book cover     Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria book coverWhatever it Takes book cover

By Readers' Advisor on November 13, 2013 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction

Nonfiction: Broke, USA by Gary Rivlin

Broke USA book coverIn the 1970s and ‘80s activists began to hound banks for redlining – an unwritten rule that banks would avoid putting branches in poorer neighborhoods. By the 1990s, other entrepreneurs stepped into the gap that the banks had left. Pawnshops, check cashing companies, payday lenders, and furniture rental stores filled working poor neighborhoods. In Broke USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc., Gary Rivlin examines the businesses that serve people living paycheck to paycheck. Rivlin begins neutrally, but as a cycle of debt is revealed he pounces on these businesses as predatory in this surprising page-turner. If you like easy-to-read exposés on American economics like Nickel and Dimed, try Broke USA.

By Readers' Advisor on November 7, 2013 Categories: Books, Nonfiction

They Called Him Shadow Catcher

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher book coverIt’s a good bet you already know the work of Edward Curtis. Open any American history book that discusses Native Americans, and there will likely be illustrations attributed to him. These timeless portraits are striking in their balance of dignity and intimacy, and they represent one man’s lifelong crusade to document a vanishing culture. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan is the inaugural winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. Read about the adventurer who was obsessive to the point of risking his life, losing his family, and finishing destitute. His legacy is not only the photographs which have become the defining images of the First Nations but also the heroic story which brought them to be.

By Readers' Advisor on October 21, 2013 Categories: Art, Awards, Books, Nonfiction

Why Education Falls Short in America

The Smartest Kids in the World book coverAre young Americans being properly trained for complex thought and competing in a global economy? Amanda Ripley, a Times journalist, studied this issue through the lives of three American teens studying abroad in The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. Kim is a 15-year old who leaves Oklahoma for Finland. Eric is 18 and leaves Minnesota for South Korea. Tom is 17 and takes Poland over Pennsylvania. Ripley examines why a handful of countries are gaining critical thinking skills and outpacing America in subjects across the board. As Ripley examines the data, Kim, Tom, and Eric give her the inside scoop or what student life is like and how the educational mindset of teenagers in other countries compares to the United States.

By Readers' Advisor on October 17, 2013 Categories: Books, Nonfiction

Book Discussion Questions: Outcasts United by Warren St. John

Outcasts United book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.


Title: Outcasts United
Author: Warren St. John
Page Count: 307
Genre: Nonfiction
Tone: Uplifting, educational


1. Has the book Outcasts United given you a better understanding of the lives of refugees? Did it change your opinions on refugees? If so, how?

2. Does Outcasts United fall into your normal reading patterns? How is this book similar or different to what you normally read?

3. Do you normally read on a local or a global scale? What is the worth of reading of local topics? What is the worth of reading of global topics? Is one type of reading better than the other?

4. What were some of the hardships that refugees faced before coming to America? What about after they got here?

5. What preconceptions do you think refugees brought with them about America? How was the reality of their new country different than their expectations?

6. How did the members of the Fugees build community after coming to Clarkston?

7. Talk about Clarkston, Georgia before the refugee settlement. How did it change after the refugee settlement was established?

8. Why was Clarkston chosen for the refugee settlement?

9. What were the different reactions from residents about the settlement? Did anyone’s opinions of the refugee settlement change over time?

10. Were the refugees all one ethnicity and religion? How did varied ethnic and religious backgrounds affect the refugee community as a whole?

11. Who were the Somali Bantu? Why were residents wary of the Somali Bantu settling in Clarkston?

12. What are some of the struggles with identity that the refugees faced in Outcasts United? What are some of the struggles with identity that long-term Clarkston faced in Outcasts United?

13. Who is Luma? Why did she help the students and their families? What can we learn by her example?

14. Is Luma’s refugee experience similar to that of her players? How? How is it different?

15. Why do you think Luma’s younger players were able to better connect than her older players?

16. Did the educational policies in Clarkston help or hinder the members of the Fugees? What, if any, reforms would you suggest?

17. What kind of coach was Luma? Did her gender affect her coaching style? Is there a right or a wrong way to coach?

18. Was soccer “just a game” in Outcasts United?

19. What examples of “paying it forward” did you notice in Outcasts United?

20. What does diversity mean to you? Is it something you actively encourage in your reading, watching, listening, and living patterns?

21. Can one person make a significant difference in the world?


Other Resources

Outcasts United website
Random House lesson plans
Warren St. John on NPR
CBS coverage of Outcasts United
Sports Illutrated article on Luma


If you liked Outcasts United, try…

In the Sea There are Crocodiles by Fabio Geda
The Ball is Round by David Goldblatt
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof

In the Sea There are Crocodiles book cover     Ball is Round book coverHalf the Sky book cover

By Readers' Advisor on October 2, 2013 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Nonfiction

My Name is Kinsey Millhone

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By Readers' Advisor on September 30, 2013 Categories: Books, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Nonfiction

Joyce’s Pick: The Emotionally Healthy Church

Joyce staff picks photoThe Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero invites you to embark on a journey in your own emotional and spiritual life. Scazzero explores transformative issues such as knowing your own heart, dealing with pain in your past, being vulnerable, and embracing loss and your own limits. Try it!

By Readers' Advisor on September 24, 2013 Categories: All Staff Picks, Books, Nonfiction, Picks by Joyce

Nature Photography for Fall

Eliot Porter: In the Realm of NatureEliot Porter said, “Wilderness must be preserved; it is a spiritual necessity. Even though few may visit wilderness areas they remain an open back door, a safety valve for those who never enter them.” It was Porter’s landscape photography that helped pass the Wilderness Act of 1964 which helped protect 9.1 million acres of national forest and wilderness areas. Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature is a coffee table book full of both the color and black and white photography of an American photographer lesser known than Ansel Adams, but equally important in the protection and history of the wilds of the United States.

By Readers' Advisor on September 19, 2013 Categories: Art, Books, Nonfiction

Winking with Proust

How Proust Can Change Your Life audiobook coverYou might think literary heavyweight Marcel Proust has nothing to say to you, but French author Alain de Botton wants you to experience How Proust Can Change Your Life. This book is a unique animal, blending wit, literary biography, and self-help to illustrate the power of reading and life experiences. The short chapters have pithy titles including “How to Be a Good Friend,” “How to Suffer Successfully,” and “How to Be Happy in Love.” The audiobook format best allows you to appreciate the humor, with narrator Nicholas Bell easily bringing out the lightness in the anecdotes and observations. Change your life with one of the books we are reading along with our friends in Sèvres, France.

By Readers' Advisor on September 16, 2013 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Humor, Literary, Nonfiction

Illicit Love and Misunderstandings that Led to Blood

Feud book coverHatfields and McCoys was a History Channel mini-series starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton about two hardscrabble, Appalachian families whose bloody quarrel lasted decades. Living along the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, rugged farming folk turned into warriors after the Civil War deepened disputes betwixt them. Dean King served as an advisor on the mini-series and wrote The Feud: The Hatfields and McCoys, The True Story which explores the feud with new documents, interviews, and regional details. The great-great-grandson of Devil Anse Hatfield said of the book, “Dean’s book is painfully fair to the descendants of both the Hatfields and the McCoys.”

By Readers' Advisor on September 12, 2013 Categories: Books, Movies and Television, Nonfiction