Autobiography of My Dead Brother

by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers

A novel about violence and death, about family and survival, about gangs and drugs,... read more

A novel about violence and death, about family and survival, about gangs and drugs, and the way the seduction of wealth can prey on teens offers hope as well as despair. Walter Dean Myers takes a hard look at what many young black boys face as they enter adolescence in depressed urban environments. Jesse is writing and drawing the “autobiography” of his best friend and blood brother, Rise, whose choices are beginning to take him down a dangerous path. A talented artist, Jesse expresses himself and his anxieties about the boys’ deteriorating friendship in striking comic art and doodles (created by Christopher Myers) as well as in his descriptions of the waste that he sees in the streets of Harlem. While the action scenes of the story are strong, the most unique aspect of this novel is the connection between the art and text. Jesse’s sketches are moving portraits of the people in his life. His comic panels offer a deeper look at his hopes, fears, and unanswered questions. In addition to Jesse and Rise, Walter Dean Myers has a number of keenly developed secondary characters. The boys who do seem to make it through the minefield of gangs and violence with their lives and identities in tact are those that have something tangible to work for. For Jesse, it is his art. For another boy, CJ, it is his love for music. The Myers’s use art to cleverly tell the story of the power of art and passion to sustain. (Ages 13–17)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2006

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