Summary and book reviews of We Were Brothers by Barry Moser

We Were Brothers

A Memoir

by Barry Moser

We Were Brothers by Barry Moser X
We Were Brothers by Barry Moser
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  • Published:
    Oct 2015, 204 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Bradley Sides
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Book Summary

"We Were Brothers, Barry Moser's beautiful - and beautifully illustrated - new book, tells the wrenching and redeeming story of brothers who take different paths and yet ultimately find their ways back to each other...Their careful reconciliation after decades of strife and avoidance is sad, moving, and joyful all at the same time." - Andrew Hudgins, author of The Joker

Preeminent illustrator Barry Moser and his brother, Tommy, were born of the same parents, were raised in the same small Tennessee community, and were poisoned by their family's deep racism and anti-Semitism. But as they grew older, their perspectives and their paths grew further and further apart. From attitudes about race, to food, politics, and money, the brothers began to think so differently that they could no longer find common ground, no longer knew how to talk to each other, and for years there was more strife between them than affection.

When Barry was in his late fifties and Tommy in his early sixties, their fragile brotherhood reached a tipping point and blew apart. From that day forward they did not speak. But fortunately, their story does not end there. With the raw emotions that so often surface when we talk of our siblings, Barry recalls why and how they were finally able to traverse that great divide and reconcile their kinship before it was too late.  

Including fifteen of Moser's stunning drawings, this powerful true story captures the essence of sibling relationships - their complexities, contradictions, and mixed blessings.

Excerpted from
WE WERE BROTHERS
A MEMOIR

Verneta was a black woman. Mother called her a "nigress" (accent on the first syllable which rhymes with "pig") when she had to call her by something other than her name. She lived in a large green and white farmhouse at the top of the hill across the street from us. It was very rare for black and white families in the south at that time to live that close together. Rarer still when the black folks' houses were on the higher ground. Be that as it may, there was always a pleasant harmony between our families because, as my mother often said, we all knew our places, both black and white. Knew and respected them.

Verneta helped take care of Tommy and me after Arthur Boyd died, but not in any formal capacity as a nanny or a maid. She did make her living as a domestic, but she took care of us boys because she loved Mother and was Mother's closest friend. Tommy and I both adored Verneta.

She and Mother grew up together in the 1910&#...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In the final third of We Were Brothers, Moser shifts from prose to epistolary storytelling, and the change works for the better. The prose is fine, being both effective and engrossing; however, the included letters from the estranged brothers are the kind of raw and emotional writing that changes lives...continued

Full Review (597 words).

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(Reviewed by Bradley Sides).

Media Reviews

Booklist
[A] valiantly forthright, superbly illustrated family memoir . . . In both riveting language and breathtaking drawings, at once acutely realistic and powerfully expressive, Moser confronts and explicates painful memories and regrets as he tells with profound retrospective insight the story of his Jim Crow-era, Chattanooga, Tennessee, boyhood.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. With masterful narrative control, Moser reveals the narrowness of perspective as well as the limitations of memory.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett
Barry Moser writes about the savagery of racism and the savagery between brothers with thoughtful introspection. In his efforts to understand both what he did and what was done to him, he has given us a beautiful and deeply compassionate examination of life.

Author Blurb Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life
Barry Moser is a delightful storyteller--his descriptions of the time and place of his childhood are as vivid as his wonderful famed drawings. We Were Brothers is an honest and moving account that explores how differing beliefs can tear people apart; it also explores how a shared history and memories of a particular time can pave the way for acceptance and forgiveness.

Author Blurb Andrew Hudgins, author of The Joker
We Were Brothers, Barry Moser's beautiful--and beautifully illustrated--new book, tells the wrenching and redeeming story of brothers who take different paths and yet ultimately find their ways back to each other. Barry grows to be appalled by the racism he grew up accepting in Chattanooga, while Tommy, his angry and violent brother, embraces it. Their careful reconciliation after decades of strife and avoidance is sad, moving, and joyful all at the same time.

Author Blurb Beth Ann Fennelly
We Were Brothers is a poignant look a twentieth-century Southern childhood, captured in all of its complexities both through words infused with a sly humor and drawings that convey their subjects' souls. Beyond that, this is a narrative of difficult questions, as the author grapples with the experiences and ideals that drove the two Moser brothers apart. Ultimately, it's a story of reconciliation, as well as a moving document of an inherited, inhabited world.

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Beyond the Book

Troubles in Southern Memoirs

Barry Moser's We Were Brothers presents his troubled relationship with the South. He shares his positive memories of his childhood filled with games and conversation, but what he seems to remember the most, now in his later adulthood, are the times of strife – those moments of conflict and bigotry.

Anyone familiar with the American South's history is surely unsurprised by this duality. The South has genuine friendliness and strong family ties, but it is also haunted by stories of racism, classism, sexism, and violence. These issues are a part of history that are too big to be ignored.

Here are my top five picks of memoirs that depict the American South in its complex and complicated form:



All Over but the ShoutinRick Bragg's ...

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