MY BROTHER: A Memoir by Jamaica Kincaid


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The death of Kincaid's brother from AIDS results in a book that is lyrically beautiful and emotionally forceful, but lacking a deep examination of its many themes. Writing only a year after the death of her brother, Kincaid (The Autobiography of My Mother, 1996, etc.) uses the event to reexplore issues that permeate her novels and other writings: family, race, and migration. My Brother's flowing, stream-of-consciousness prose pulls readers along through the range of psychological changes Kincaid experiences as she grapples with her loss. From birth, Kincaid's brother Devon had been a source of trouble for the family: committing crimes, taking drugs, and being sexually promiscuous. The contrast between what her brother is at the time of his death (an unrepentant and fated man living in their native Antigua) and what Kincaid has become (a famous writer living in the US) paints a poignant tableau of sibling difference. What is most important here is the precariously complex and often emotionally violent relationships within families. At the forefront is the mother, a figure Kincaid finds herself unwillingly forced to wrestle with again as she attempts to care for the brother she left behind years ago. Distance is what pervades this world: distance from family, from one's origins, from understanding (it is not until after Devon dies that Jamaica learns of his homosexuality). The death of Devon and Kincaid's return to Antigua serve as metaphors for her belief that redemption and escape are finally impossible. But these ideas and the range of others Kincaid touches upon remain underdeveloped throughout the book. Kincaid states, ""These are my thoughts on his dying,"" and reveals the book's flaw: My Brother is a tirade of depression and confusion that fails to make sense of the maelstrom.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1997
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: "Farrar, Straus & Giroux"