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Autobiography of My Dead Brother Hardcover – August 16, 2005

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 8-11. Funerals for young black men, both murdered in drive-by shootings, begin and end Myers' sobering story about contemporary Harlem teens. Fifteen-year-old Jessie has always seen slightly older Rise as a hero, and the boys made a blood-brother bond as children. Then Rise pulls away, starts dealing drugs and "fronting cool," and Jessie struggles to find his old friend beneath the new persona. His search leads him to art, which is his great talent, and he begins to create a biography of Rise in pictures. Frequent and striking black-and-white illustrations, done by Christopher Myers, depict pivotal moments from the boys' youth; there are also comics-style panels, in which a bird-boy character asks how best to live and communicate truthfully. The plot, which drifts a bit, isn't the focus here. What will affect readers most is Jessie's sharp, sometimes poetic first-person voice and the spirited, rhythmic dialogue of other vivid characters, who ask piercing questions about how to survive the violence and hopelessness rooted through a neighborhood's generations. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Amistad; First Edition edition (August 16, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006058291X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060582913
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,018,460 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By BeatleBangs1964 VINE VOICE on October 5, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Jesse, 15 lives in Harlem, New York City. He is the only child of a bright couple and his best friend, Rise is one of his biggest influences.

Jesse and Rise grew up together. When Rise, 17 turns to crime and joins the Counts, a local street gang and insists on bringing Jesse in with him along with their friend C.J., Jesse starts to reassess their friendship. He sadly realizes that he and Rise are traveling down different streets; the drive-by shooting of their friend Bobby, 14 has left the neighborhood shaken. C.J., a musical prodigy who plays piano in their church also has his sights set on a different path. It is C.J. and Jesse, a budding young artist who is quite talented at drawing who realize they have more in common with each other.

Rise and the Counts are in for a Count-down; sadly, drive-bys claim more casualties. The Counts were described as being on the tame end of street gangs; a warring faction called the Diablos were responsible for shooting a friend; killing a cabbie and later, some members of the Counts.

Sidney, a kind and fair police officer takes the boys under his wing. He is respected in the neighborhood and word on the street was that he was a fair man, which he was. When Mason, 19 an older member of the Counts was busted for homicide, it was Sidney who took Rise and Jesse to the jail ("Iron City") to see the fate in store for their former friend.

More problems crop up in the neighborhood; Rise, seeing a chance to leave Harlem wants to call Jesse and the Counts together for a final goodbye. Sadly, that goodbye really was the end.

This is an excellent book that reflects the city and street culture well. The characters are fresh, cutting edge, serious and believable.
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Format: Library Binding
To pick up a book written by Walter Dean Myers is to expect nothing less than literary greatness. Among his many accolades, MONSTER was the first winner of the Michael L. Printz Award, a National Book Award Finalist, a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book. He has received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults and has penned over 70 award-winning books intended for a wide age range of readers, from picture books to teen novels. His son, Christopher Myers, is a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor recipient, and has illustrated a number of breathtaking books for young readers, including his solo effort entitled BLACK CAT.

In AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY DEAD BROTHER, it is therefore not surprising that the father and son team has once again created a true-to-life story that is profoundly moving and one that boldly addresses many of the prevailing conflicts confronting urban youth today.

As in many of Dean Myers's other books, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY DEAD BROTHER opens with a bang. Fifteen-year-old Jesse and his friends C.J. and seventeen-year-old Rise are attending a funeral of one of their own from their Harlem neighborhood who was recently gunned down in a drive-by shooting. Understandably, the mood in the church is quite somber and the three boys are faced once again with the reality of living --- and dying --- in the 'hood. After the funeral, the boys separate from their parents and go to the park to hang out. In a rare moment of clarity, Rise says what's on all of their minds: "You know, it's hard when somebody gets wasted. 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.
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Format: Library Binding
Teenager Jesse is writing the autobiography of his childhood friend and "blood brother" Rise, in a series of sketches, portraits, and comic strips from their times together. Rise is a little older than Jesse and is starting to be pulled in by the allure of the protection of gangs and the easy money of drugs. His biographer, Jesse, is confused by the change in his friend, and by Rise's attempts to turn the local boys' club into a street gang at war with neighborhood rivals. Given the title of the novel, one can only guess what the outcome of Rise's foray into drugs, guns, crime, and the power struggle is going to be.

Narrator Jesse provides the reader with an honest (and many times perplexed) insider look at the allure of street gangs. As his world spins out of control, he is torn by a love for the blood brother Rise used to be and his parents' urging that he cut all ties with his friends and the boys' club. Unforgettable, with fresh and realistic characters.
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Format: Hardcover
This was an enthralling read. I liked the depth of this book and it painted a realistic portrait of poverty and gang life. The best part of this book was the incorporation of the comics and illustrations into the plot. The comic of Spodi Roti and Wise was brilliant. I also liked how most of the main characters in this book were not gang members or looking to be involved in gangs but simply wanted to survive long enough to explore their talents in music and artistry. It's nice to have a book about poverty and class that doesn't stereotype but gives a more realistic and in-depth picture.
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