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Associate Professor Nicky Beer on How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones

June 21, 2021

In our series Wonderwork, CU Denver students, faculty, staff, and alumni recommend one book, podcast, television show, film, etc. that deserves more attention. Our ultimate goal is to promote a more diverse and inclusive book and media culture. June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, so our focus will be on works by LGBTQ+ creatives or about LGBTQ+ issues. Nominate your favorite Wonderwork by emailing cudenvernews@ucdenver.edu or posting on social media with #CUDenverWonderWork. 


“Just as some cultures have a hundred words for ‘snow,’ there should be a hundred words in our language for all the ways a black boy can lie awake at night.”

“Everyone has a lie we’re quietly waiting to believe.”

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

These are just some of the many passages I found myself underlining, circling, and marking with stars as I sped through Saeed Jones’ 2019 memoir How We Fight for Our Lives.

Jones, an award-winning poet, immerses his reader in prose that is vivid and unforgiving in its precision as he recounts growing up and coming of age as a gay Black man in America. He movingly animates his struggles with homophobia and racism—both cultural and internalized—and his fierce will to survive them.

A book that makes one feel painfully, wonderingly alive.

– Associate Professor Nicky Beer, Department of English


Nicky Beer is a bi/queer writer and an associate professor in the English Department. Her third book of poems, Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes, will be published by Milkweed Editions in Spring 2022.