Autobiography of My Dead Brother

Autobiography of My Dead Brother

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by Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers
     
 

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The thing was that me and Rise were blood brothers, but sometimes I really didn't know him. . . .

As Jesse fills his sketchbook with drawings and portraits of Rise, he tries to make sense of the complexities of friendship, loyalty, and loss in a neighborhood plagued by drive-bys, vicious gangs, and abusive cops.

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Overview

The thing was that me and Rise were blood brothers, but sometimes I really didn't know him. . . .

As Jesse fills his sketchbook with drawings and portraits of Rise, he tries to make sense of the complexities of friendship, loyalty, and loss in a neighborhood plagued by drive-bys, vicious gangs, and abusive cops.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this National Book Award finalist, 15-year-old Jesse chronicles the demise of his "blood brother," Rise, in the titular illustrated "autobiography," and struggles to escape the random violence of his neighborhood. Ages 14-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT - KaaVonia Hinton
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, July 2005: This novel is framed by the legendary gospel classic, "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," and the funerals of young, black teenagers gunned down on the streets of their own neighborhoods. When the novel opens it is clear that Jesse and Rise are growing up and growing apart. They were once blood brothers; now Jesse hardly recognizes Rise and finds it impossible to sketch images of him. This is unfortunate because Jesse has agreed to write an autobiography of Rise's life. Though themes of violence, black-on-black crime, and the coming-of-age of urban black males are familiar in Myers's work, the slow transformation of an innocent social group known as the Counts into a gang thrust into a battle for territorial rights separates this book from others. Teens, some who may by struggling with similar issues, will be on edge while 15-year-old Jesse decides if he will allow his environment and peers to dictate the type of man he will become. The temptation to adopt a destructive mentality is appealing when he feels the pressure to prove his dedication to Rise in order to keep up an anti-establishment facade. Those interested in graphic novels might find Christopher Myers' b/w illustrations appealing. Like his friend, CJ, who finds solace in playing the piano and the organ, it is art that sustains Jesse, something to which Rise does not have access. This premise is also found in other novels by Myers, such as the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Monster. In Autobiography of My Dead Brother, Jesse survives because he clings to what matters most, his ability to draw and write a comic strip (titled Spodi Roti and Wise) notonly about Rise, but also about himself and other black teenage boys seemingly forced into a way of life that can only lead to a premature death.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Fifteen-year-old Jesse lives a clean and relatively careful life in contemporary Harlem. His best friend and honorary brother, Rise, is two years older and plays life faster and looser. The boys belong to a social club inherited from the men of the older generation. The Counts aren't a gang and the members tend to have a variety of aesthetic interests. Jesse is devoted to cartooning and sketching while C. J. is a fine musician. Rise, however, it seems to Jesse, has begun to lead a second life that doesn't include him or The Counts. Myers's story of urban violence and wasted youth unfolds inexorably, but the relationships among his characters-Jesse and his frightened parents; C. J. and Jesse; a local cop and the neighborhood boys; Jesse and a love-starved but sexually knowing girl-are nuanced and engaging rather than predictable. The black-and-white artwork throughout includes both realistic sketches of Jesse's friends and a cartoon-strip take on Rise, adding a dimension that expands readers' views of Jesse's world and of the conflicts presented to the boys. This novel is like photorealism; it paints a vivid and genuine portrait of life that will have a palpable effect on its readers.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Jesse and his friend C.J. are trying to come to terms with "the violence that blows through our community like the winds of winter." With a friend carrying a gun, another dealing and one in jail for robbery, Jesse sees first-hand what drugs are doing to his Harlem home. "Sometimes," he says, "the corner of 149th Street looked like an ad for some desperate Third World country," or a vision of hell from Dante's Inferno, which Jesse is reading in school. The autobiography Jesse is making of his best friend Rise, with photographs, drawings and cartoons, shows Rise changing as he gets involved with gangs, and the cartoonish character of Spodi Roti represents Jesse himself as he questions his life and community, looking for answers. The innovative illustrated novel format is effective, essential to Rise's autobiography and to Jesse's own quest for understanding. Though the story is starkly realistic, there is always hope in the gifts of Jesse the artist and C. J. the musician, of schools and churches and of caring parents. (Fiction. 12+)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062046895
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/26/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
172,546
Lexile:
830L (what's this?)
File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Autobiography of My Dead Brother


By Walter Myers

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Walter Myers
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006058291X

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
Lord, I am so tired
Yes, I'm weak
And yes, I'm worn . . .

Lord knows we are tired today as we gather here in fellowship and sorrow, in brotherhood and despair, for the going-home ceremony of fourteen-year-old Bobby Green." Pastor Loving rocked forward as he spoke. "Lord knows we are tired of burying our young men, of driving behind hearses and seeing the painted letters of remembrance on the walls of our neighborhoods.

"As we close this chapter of young Bobby's life, let us send our prayers with him to the other side." Pastor Loving, a big, dark man, wiped the sweat from his forehead with his handkerchief. "Let us send our prayers with him so that maybe one day those left behind will finally be able to do what we hope for him -- to rest in peace without the violence that blows through our community like the winds of winter. This loss chills the heart and challenges the soul, and yet we must keep on. To young Bobby's parents I extend my hand and the promise of a just God who will heal the heavy heart and rest the weary soul. As you leave the church today, stop and pass a word to Bobby's grieving mother, Louise, and his grieving father, John. Let them know that in the middle of darkness there is and will always be the everlasting light of Christian faith. Amen."

The gospel choir started singing softly, and row by row they left their seats. Bobby's mother was crying and leaning against an older man I didn't know. It was all the same, the gentle whirring of the fans, the familiar scent of the flowers, the hymns that filled the spaces between the people mourning Bobby. I looked over to where C.J. was still sitting at the organ. He looked small in front of the dark mahogany instrument. The people in the first row had started filing past the casket. My mom took my hand and squeezed it.

"I don't think . . ."

"It's okay," she said softly.

I slid out of the pew and made my way toward the back of St. Philip's Episcopal.

On the steps the cool evening breeze carried barbecue smells from the Avenue. I watched as some young kids ran down the street to an ice-cream truck. It had been hot all day, and the few drops of rain that fell didn't cool things off at all.

"It's a shame for a child to go so young like that," Miss Essie Lassiter was saying. "It should have been somebody old, like me. Jesse, do the police have any idea who it was who shot him?"

"No, ma'am."

"That's the terrible thing about it," Miss Lassiter said. "First there's one shooting, and then there's a shooting getting even with that one, and people don't know when to stop."

"Yes, ma'am."

Bobby had a big family and they could afford only one official funeral car, so not too many people were going out to the cemetery. I watched as Miss Lassiter, who went to everybody's funeral, got in one of the cars. A moment later they were pulling away from the church.

C.J. came up to me and he was looking teary-eyed. "You want to go over to the park?" he asked.

I said I'd go, and just then Rise came over. We told him where we were going and he said he'd come along. We walked the first part of the distance to the park in silence, and then Rise started kidding C.J. about not playing any jazz at Bobby G.'s funeral.

"You should have played like they used to down in New Orleans," Rise said. "Everybody would have talked about it."

"And my moms would have been all over my head," C.J. said. "I asked her about playing some jazz, but she said that Bobby's parents might not like it."

"Yeah, well, he went out like a man," Rise said.

"Yo, Rise, the brother got wasted in a drive-by," I said. "He was chilling on his stoop when some dudes lit up the sidewalk. I don't even think they knew who they shot."

We got to the park and sat on a bench. C.J. was talking about how Bobby was worried about getting into a good high school.

"We were just talking about that the other day," C.J. said. "He was saying that if he got into a good high school, he was going to bust his chops so he could go on to college. Bobby was cool."

"When your time comes, you got to go," Rise said. "That's all sad and everything, but that's the word, straight up."

"Maybe I should have played something special," C.J. said.

C.J. is the same age as me, fifteen. He was raised in the church and had been playing piano and organ for as long as I knew him. He wanted to play jazz, but his moms said he should stick to classical and gospel. We had talked about him sticking in a little jazz at Bobby's funeral, and I thought it would have been cool. I really didn't know Bobby's parents, though. Maybe they wouldn't have liked it. But there were so many funerals going on, it almost seemed you needed something to make them different.

"Y'all hear there's going to be a meeting of the Counts tomorrow?" Rise asked. "For what?" C.J. had fished half of a candy bar from his pocket and was taking the paper off of it.

"It should be about Bobby G.," Rise said. "But Calvin is calling it, so I don't think it's going to be about anything, really. Dude is just swimming upstream and don't know where he's going."

On the far side of the park some guys had set up steel drums. They started playing some reggae, but real soft and it sounded good, almost like a pulse coming out of the darkness.

"You know, it's hard when somebody gets wasted," Rise went on. "Bobby G. was good people and everything, but that's why you have to make your life special every day. You never know when your time is up. Ain't no use in being down about it."

Precious Lord, take my hand
Lead me on, let me stand
Lord, I am so tired
Yes, I'm weak
And yes, I'm worn . . .

Lord knows we are tired today as we gather here in fellowship and sorrow, in brotherhood and despair, for the going-home ceremony of fourteen-year-old Bobby Green." Pastor Loving rocked forward as he spoke. "Lord knows we are tired of burying our young men, of driving behind hearses and seeing the painted letters of remembrance on the walls of our neighborhoods.

"As we close this chapter of young Bobby's life, let us send our prayers with him to the other side." Pastor Loving, a big, dark man, wiped the sweat from his forehead with his handkerchief. "Let us send our prayers with him so that maybe one day those left behind will finally be able to do what we hope for him -- to rest in peace without the violence that blows through our community like the winds of winter. This loss chills the heart and challenges the soul, and yet we must keep on. To young Bobby's parents I extend my hand and the promise of a just God who will heal the heavy heart and rest the weary soul. As you leave the church today, stop and pass a word to Bobby's grieving mother, Louise, and his grieving father, John. Let them know that in the middle of darkness there is and will always be the everlasting light of Christian faith. Amen."

The gospel choir started singing softly, and row by row they left their seats. Bobby's mother was crying and leaning against an older man I didn't know. It was all the same, the gentle whirring of the fans, the familiar scent of the flowers, the hymns that filled the spaces between the people mourning Bobby. I looked over to where C.J. was still sitting at the organ. He looked small in front of the dark mahogany instrument. The people in the first row had started filing past the casket. My mom took my hand and squeezed it.

"I don't think . . ."

"It's okay," she said softly.

I slid out of the pew and made my way toward the back of St. Philip's Episcopal.

On the steps the cool evening breeze carried barbecue smells from the Avenue. I watched as some young kids ran down the street to an ice-cream truck. It had been hot all day, and the few drops of rain that fell didn't cool things off at all.

"It's a shame for a child to go so young like that," Miss Essie Lassiter was saying. "It should have been somebody old, like me. Jesse, do the police have any idea who it was who shot him?"

"No, ma'am."

"That's the terrible thing about it," Miss Lassiter said. "First there's one shooting, and then there's a shooting getting even with that one, and people don't know when to stop."

"Yes, ma'am."

Bobby had a big family and they could afford only one official funeral car, so not too many people were going out to the cemetery. I watched as Miss Lassiter, who went to everybody's funeral, got in one of the cars. A moment later they were pulling away from the church.

C.J. came up to me and he was looking teary-eyed. "You want to go over to the park?" he asked.

I said I'd go, and just then Rise came over. We told him where we were going and he said he'd come along. We walked the first part of the distance to the park in silence, and then Rise started kidding C.J. about not playing any jazz at Bobby G.'s funeral.

"You should have played like they used to down in New Orleans," Rise said. "Everybody would have talked about it."

"And my moms would have been all over my head," C.J. said. "I asked her about playing some jazz, but she said that Bobby's parents might not like it."

"Yeah, well, he went out like a man," Rise said.

"Yo, Rise, the brother got wasted in a drive-by," I said. "He was chilling on his stoop when some dudes lit up the sidewalk. I don't even think they knew who they shot."

We got to the park and sat on a bench. C.J. was talking about how Bobby was worried about getting into a good high school.

"We were just talking about that the other day," C.J. said. "He was saying that if he got into a good high school, he was going to bust his chops so he could go on to college. Bobby was cool."

"When your time comes, you got to go," Rise said. "That's all sad and everything, but that's the word, straight up."

"Maybe I should have played something special," C.J. said.

C.J. is the same age as me, fifteen. He was raised in the church and had been playing piano and organ for as long as I knew him. He wanted to play jazz, but his moms said he should stick to classical and gospel. We had talked about him sticking in a little jazz at Bobby's funeral, and I thought it would have been cool. I really didn't know Bobby's parents, though. Maybe they wouldn't have liked it. But there were so many funerals going on, it almost seemed you needed something to make them different.

"Y'all hear there's going to be a meeting of the Counts tomorrow?" Rise asked. "For what?" C.J. had fished half of a candy bar from his pocket and was taking the paper off of it.

"It should be about Bobby G.," Rise said. "But Calvin is calling it, so I don't think it's going to be about anything, really. Dude is just swimming upstream and don't know where he's going."

On the far side of the park some guys had set up steel drums. They started playing some reggae, but real soft and it sounded good, almost like a pulse coming out of the darkness.

"You know, it's hard when somebody gets wasted," Rise went on. "Bobby G. was good people and everything, but that's why you have to make your life special every day. You never know when your time is up. Ain't no use in being down about it."

Continues...


Excerpted from Autobiography of My Dead Brother by Walter Myers Copyright © 2005 by Walter Myers.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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