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The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

The 2012-13 Text-In-Community campus read selection for North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University

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Sample Discussion Questions

1. The tagline for The Other Wes Moore is: “The chilling truth is that his story could have been
mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.”
What do you think this means? Do you agree with it? Why or why not? In literature, a
tragedy is a work in which the protagonist is brought to ruin as a consequence of a tragic flaw, a
moral weakness, or the inability to cope with unfavorable circumstances. Given that definition,
would you say that the other Wes Moore’s story is a tragedy?

2. Wes Moore the author describes nights lying in bed, “conjuring up his (Wes’s) image as best I
could, a man lying on a cot in a prison cell, burdened by regret, trying to sleep through another
night surrounded by the walls he’d escape only at death.” Why does the author become so
obsessed with finding out more about the other Wes Moore?

3. Wes Moore the author says that “even the worst decisions we make don’t necessarily remove
us from the circle of humanity.” What does he mean when he says this? Do you agree – why or
why not?

4. Wes Moore the author says that “I was taught to remember but never question. Wes was
taught to forget, and never ask why.” Are these things different - how? How do they point to
differences in each of the Wes’s upbringings? How might they connect to the differences in their
outcomes?

5. Wes Moore the author’s father gives him the middle name “Watende” which means “revenge
will not be sought.” How does revenge become a theme in the book? How do you think Wes’s
family’s attitude toward revenge shaped Wes?

6. We learn that the other Wes Moore’s mother had to drop out of Johns Hopkins when she loses
her Pell grant. As a result, she is unable to finish college (though she does have an associate’s
degree). Both of the author’s parents, on the other hand, finish college with four year degrees.
How do you think that the differences in educational levels shaped each of the families? What
do you think the author is trying to say about education? What do you think that the author is
trying to say about the importance of educational funding from the government?

7. The other Wes Moore makes the point that “if the situation and the context where you make
the decisions don’t change, then second chances don’t mean too much, huh?” What second
chances did each of the Wes Moores get? How do these second chances differ?

8. The author realizes that “Life’s impermanence…is what makes every single day so precious.
It’s what shapes our time here. It’s what makes it so important that not a single moment be
wasted.” Both of the Weses faced their fair share of death during childhood. How do you think
that “life’s impermanence” shaped each of the Weses?

9. The author believes himself to be “lucky.” Do you agree with this – why or why not? How much
of a role does “luck” play in each of the Weses’ stories?

10. While the author is in South Africa, he learns about the Xhosa tradition of “Ubuntu”,
or “humanity.” This, he learns, is why South Africans were able to forgive those who had
oppressed them. What roles do the concepts of “humanity” and “forgiveness” play in this book?

11. In the call to action at the end of the book, Tavis Smiley says that “failing doesn’t make us a
failure. But not trying to do better, to be better, does make us fools.” What are some examples
of each of the Weses’ lives that illustrate times where they tried to be better? Was this enough?
Why or why not?

12. Women play a large role in both of the Weses’ lives. How do their attitudes towards women
differ, and how are they similar? What do you think the book says about the importance of
women in a family? What does it say about the way that women should be treated?

13. Both Wes Moores talk a lot about expectations. To what extent do the expectations of others
control our outcomes? To what extent should we hold ourselves accountable for our own
actions?