Reading about the lives of others teaches us empathy and expands our understanding of culture and ethnicity.
So when I come across a beautifully written book such as Brother by David Chariandy, I want to share it with everyone. This week’s New Title Tuesday choice is just as Lauren Bufferd described in her BookPage review: “poetic without being sentimental and heartbreaking without being manipulative.”
Publisher’s Summary: An intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, tightly constructed novel, Brother explores questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
With shimmering prose and mesmerizing precision, David Chariandy takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home.
Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.
Propelled by the pulsing beats and styles of hip hop, Francis, the older of the two brothers, dreams of a future in music. Michael’s dreams are of Aisha, the smartest girl in their high school whose own eyes are firmly set on a life elsewhere. But the bright hopes of all three are violently, irrevocably thwarted by a tragic shooting, and the police crackdown and suffocating suspicion that follow.
With devastating emotional force David Chariandy, a unique and exciting voice in Canadian literature, crafts a heartbreaking and timely story about the profound love that exists between brothers and the senseless loss of lives cut short with the shot of a gun.
About the Author: Winner of the 2017 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, David Chariandy’s Brother is his intensely beautiful, searingly powerful, and tightly constructed second novel, exploring questions of masculinity, family, race, and identity as they are played out in a Scarborough housing complex during the sweltering heat and simmering violence of the summer of 1991.
Chariandy was quoted as saying that he did not write a novel about police brutality. In his article for TheStar.com, Nick Patch also quoted Chariandy saying the author’s goal was to write about the resilience and creativity and the experience of being a visible minority in a housing complex susceptible to crime near Toronto.
For such a brief novel, there are many topics and themes in Brother. First, it is a lovely tribute to the older brother who tried to educate and protect his younger sibling. It is also an insight to the struggle immigrants – or anyone – experiences who leaves a hopeless situation to seek something better. Brother is also about the fierce love a mother bestows on her children as well as the love children feel for and the support they give to their parents. There is no hyperbole or exaggeration in the novel; it is a lamentation of particular experience.
I agree with Bufferd’s assessment of Brother: “There are insights here that some may find difficult to take in, yet it would be unwise to disregard. Chariandy has something vital to share about what occurs when young lives are cut down. As readers, it is our duty to listen.”
Happy Reading, Susan C.
You might also enjoy:
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri – Born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other in the Calcutta neighborhood where they grow up. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead. It is the 1960s, and Udayan—charismatic and impulsive—finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty; he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother’s political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America. But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family’s home, he goes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind—including those seared in the heart of his brother’s wife.
More by Austin Clarke – At the news of her son BJ’s involvement in gang crime, Idora Morrison, a maid at the local university, collapses in her basement apartment. For four days and nights she retreats into a vortex of memory, pain, and disappointment that becomes a riveting expose of her life as a Caribbean immigrant living abroad. While she struggled to make ends meet, her deadbeat husband, Bertram, abandoned her for a better life in New York. Left alone to raise her son, Idora has done her best to survive against immense odds. But now that BJ has disappeared into a life of crime, she recoils from his loss and is unable to get out of bed, burdened by feelings of invisibility. As she summons the strength to investigate her son’s troubles–and her own weaknesses–the book quietly builds into its crescendo. Eventually Idora finds her way back into the light with a courage that is both remarkable and unforgettable
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – Newlyweds Celestial and Roy, the living embodiment of the New South, are settling into the routine of their life together when Roy is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – After witnessing her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter’s life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.