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Summary and book reviews of Brother by David Chariandy

Brother

by David Chariandy

Brother by David Chariandy X
Brother by David Chariandy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2018, 192 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2019, 192 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

In luminous, incisive prose, a startling new literary talent explores masculinity, race, and sexuality against a backdrop of simmering violence during the summer of 1991.

One sweltering summer in the Park, a housing complex outside of Toronto, Michael and Francis are coming of age and learning to stomach the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry. While their Trinidadian single mother works double, sometimes triple shifts so her boys might fulfill the elusive promise of their adopted home, Francis helps the days pass by inventing games and challenges, bringing Michael to his crew's barbershop hangout, and leading escapes into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves.

Propelled by the beats and styles of hip hop, Francis 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.

Honest and insightful in its portrayal of kinship, community, and lives cut short, David Chariandy's Brother is an emotional tour de force that marks the arrival of a stunning new literary voice.

The world around us was named Scarborough. It had once been called "Scarberia," a wasteland on the out­skirts of a sprawling city. But now, as we were growing up in the early '80s, in the heated language of a changing nation, we heard it called other names: Scarlem, Scarbistan. We lived in Scar-bro, a suburb that had mushroomed up and yellowed, browned, and blackened into life. Our neighbours were Mrs. Chandrasekar and Mr. Chow, Pilar Fernandez and Clive "Sonny" Barrington. They spoke different languages, they ate different foods, but they were all from one colony or the other, and so they had a shared vocabulary for describing feral children like us. We were "ragamuffins." We were "hooligans" up to no good "gallivanting." We were what one neighbour, more poet than security guard, described as "oiled creatures of mongoose cunning," raiding dumpsters and garbage rooms or climbing up trees and fire-exit stairs to spy on ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Why does Chariandy begin Brother with the anecdote about the lookout? How do the lessons about climbing and memory outlined in this section come into play elsewhere in the novel?
  2. Did you enjoy Chariandy's narrative technique of alternating between a present-day story and flashbacks? What is the effect of telling the story in this style?
  3. How does Michael and Francis's relationship as brothers evolve over the course of the events depicted in Brother? Of the flashbacks to their childhood, which event(s) have the biggest impact on their relationship and why?
  4. What does the implied relationship between Francis and Jelly tell us about each of their characters as individuals? Why do you think Chariandy presents their relationship in the subtle ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

For a book set in 1991 and 2001, Brother is remarkably timely. Chariandy explores the harm racist and xenophobic attitudes can have on an individual, and on a community as a whole, and how law enforcement, rather than acting to improve such a community, can become a violent and oppressive presence. It is a plaintive and gripping representation of the loss of life and dignity that results when certain people in society are viewed as expendable - an urgent plea for empathy...continued

Full Review (598 words).

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(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

New York Times
The challenge for a novel set in a place where nothing ever changes is how to find room for a narrative to move ahead. Chariandy handles this skillfully, by traveling at once inward, into the intimate lives of his characters, and outward, connecting the diasporic community to a wider world of postcolonial migration.

The Observer (UK)
A breathtaking achievement ... A compulsive, brutal and flawless novel that is full of accomplished storytelling with not a word spare.

The Guardian (UK)
An exquisite novel, crafted by a writer as talented and precise as Junot DĂ­az and Dinaw Mengestu. It has a beating heart and a sharp tongue. It is elegant, vital, indubitably dope--the most moving book I've read in a year.

The Independent (UK)
An enthralling and timely read.

Booklist
Elegiac ... The characters are well drawn, and the setting is beautifully realized. The result is a haunting story that will linger in readers' memories.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.Chariandy imbues his resilient characters and their stories with strength, dignity, and hope. This is an impressive novel written by an author in total command of his story.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. An important, riveting novel about dreams, families, and the systems holding them back.

The Globe and Mail
What can fiction do for us at a time when we are looking to understand other people's truths? As it turns out in this book, everything ... Brother is filled with moments of swagger and bravery, of recklessness and love that sparks against the dull pain of tragedy.

The Toronto Star
Chariandy's often elegiac tone and stately but spare prose establish a compelling melancholic mood. [This] revisitation of familiar territory pays off with its singular observations and insights. A novel with sentences to savour, Brother also rewards an unhurried reader with a poetic vision that while sad is also lovely.

Author Blurb Marlon James, Man Booker Prizewinning author of A Brief History of Seven Killings
A brilliant, powerful elegy ... pulsing with rhythm, and beating with life.

Author Blurb Kiese Laymon, author ofLong Division and Heavy
Marks the beginning of an absolutely mammoth literary talent.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Barbershop and Black Male Bonding

Black BarbershopAs a young teen, Michael (in David Chariandy's Brother) begins spending time at the neighborhood barbershop, Desirea's, with his older brother and his friends. In the book, just as in life, black men visit the barbershop not just for haircuts, but to share their personal lives, discuss current events, listen to music and just relax with their neighbors and friends.

In an ode to the barbershop published in Fader magazine, a journalist quotes a friend: "In a lot of ways barbers are our therapists. The shop is where I learned what being a black man was about early on," adding that there are "not many places that all men got together and could talk freely." Fader also published interviews with five black barbers from across the United States...

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