The literary transplant talks with our sister magazine about life during the pandemic, racial injustice and his deepening relationship with his new hometown

Saeed Jones is many things, but perhaps above all he is an observer. He likes to sit at the desk in his Short North apartment and look out the window, examining the scenes below as he examined his own life in his memoir, “How We Fight for Our Lives,” which was released in paperback this summer after a wildly successful debut last year. “I’m a writer; I write,” Jones says. “I use language to hopefully make positive connections. And I think my goal is always to positively contribute.”

Over the past year, his contributions have been significant. His memoir — a searing tale of growing up as the gay, Black, only child of a single mother in Texas — earned a Kirkus Prize and a Stonewall Book Award and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The New Yorker and several other national publications. Amid this hoopla, Jones surprised the East Coast literary world by moving to Columbus, a decision he explained in an online essay in October 2019 and elaborated on in interviews with The Washington Post, NPR and other media outlets, praising Columbus for its welcoming environment and literary culture. “When I say ‘this is my home,’ my home says ‘you’re damn right,’” he wrote.

In his memoir, Jones touches on universal themes of self-preservation, internalized hatred, grief and survivorship. Any reader, regardless of race or class or gender or sexual identity, can find something in Jones’ carefully, achingly rendered story that resonates.

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