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My Brother

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,396 ratings  ·  153 reviews
Jamaica Kincaid's brother Devon Drew died of AIDS on January 19, 1996, at the age of thirty-three. Kincaid's incantatory, poetic, and often shockingly frank recounting of her brother's life and death is also a story of her family on the island of Antigua, a constellation centered on the powerful, sometimes threatening figure of the writer's mother. My Brother is an unblink ...more
Paperback, 197 pages
Published November 9th 1998 by Noonday Press (first published 1997)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,396 ratings  ·  153 reviews

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Gretchen Rubin
I sense a Jamaica Kincaid kick coming on. A short, compelling memoir of her brother and her family, and a meditation on how and why their lives turned out so differently.
Marc Manley
Sep 25, 2010 rated it did not like it
To me, Jamaica Kincaid is a contrived. Her whole identity is duplicious and incoherent. I also find her to be a cultural elitist that attempts to pass herself off as the victim of Antigua in general, and her mother in specific. In the end, her brother's death is not about him, but is about her. In fact, the entire book is one long prattle about herself mumbling, "me, me, me". I fail to see her attraction, at least in this volume, as her writing style is far from engaging; more akin to nails on a ...more
Sep 20, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
(Sigh), compared to the fiction I've read by her, I think this book got a lot of praise because she was established already with two good books, and maybe, because its something readers could feel sympathetic towards. For me, I was into it at first, and then thought that even its 198 pages in big type dragged on too long. I still don't know her brother because she doesn't, she doesn't care--me neither, and I don't know the mother because she only chooses to speak about her when she pleases. I fe ...more
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really honest memoir about her family and specifically her brother (closeted) dying of AIDS in the mid-'90s. It's rare to read about someone saying, repeatedly, that they hate their mother and don't really love their brother who is dying, but she makes it work. Not everyone has to be lovable to have a memoir written about them. ...more
Valentina Salvatierra
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A brutally sad, unflinching look at having someone close to you die from AIDS. Also very personal: Kincaid's brother, although close in terms of blood relation, wasn't especially close to her as an individual, because of their differing adult life trajectories. Kincaid uses this contrast very effectively, this gap between her brother's materially impoverished existence in Antigua and her own privileged first-world life in Vancouver. She uses it to question the nature of family, what makes you "l ...more
My first foray into Kincaid's wide body of work, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. Basically analyzes her, let's say, "complicated" relation with her family - her cruel mother, her feuding brothers, and in particular, her wild and horn-dog-y brother who, during the span covered by the memoir, is diagnosed with AIDS, undergoes a respite from death's door with the help of anti-retrovirals, and then dies from the disease's complications.

A number of cultural factors lend the book some greater we
Lou Last
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mooncalf, golden, non

Related interview with the always interesting Kincaid

Filipa Calado
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Devastating... written in a breathless style that makes you think Kincaid stayed up all night then submitted the first draft that came out. The prose comes across as raw, unedited, yet masterfully arranged.

A memoir that recounts the writer grappling with her brother's death, touching on the AIDS crisis, family, and gay themes.
Michael Strode
I was curious when she finished the first section of the text and her brother had finally died what she could possibly conceive to round out the remainder of the pages. I thought to myself "what more is there to tell". This title was engaging, insightful, and reflective upon the interactions that occur between parents, children, and siblings in the course of coming of age into our vast adulthood.

This might have just as easily been about my relationship with either of my brothers Tony or Rahsaan
I don’t believe that this is her best work. Kincaid writes about the life and death of her brother who was diagnosed with AIDS at a time when medication for this disease on an island with scarce resources, is non-existent. However, this book delves more into the complex relationships Kincaid has with her dying brother, her mother, and even with herself. But unfortunately it’s written like a slow-rolling boulder. Picking up stray particles along the way. There is also a great tug-of-war happening ...more
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Forgive the cliche, but this book is brutally honest. Resolutely so. It's an extended lyric essay, as much poetry as prose, its repetitions and associative leaps capturing the complexly layered structure of human consciousness: the inescapable presence of the past, how it shapes each moment we experience, the way certain seemingly insignificant thoughts--and traumas--continue to haunt our "now" like musical motifs. In this book the reader, quite simply, inhabits the author's mind as she recalls ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed Jamaica Kincaid’s writing and the exploration of her feelings about her brother - current and past - as he is now dying of AIDS. The book is almost a book of two halves and I enjoyed the first half immensely. The second half resonates with grief and the complex mix of feelings which go with losing someone who is a blood connection but with whom you have nothing in common. It is very evocative of the feelings of grief but I did find it repetitive and it dragged compared with the ...more
Andrea Chambers
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I understand and appreciate JK compelling read. It was absent of emotions and told from a point of observation which made me a bit anxious at times. Though the book is tilted ‘My Brother’, it could have just as well been titled ‘Trees and Such’ and it still would have ruffled just as many feathers. But that is the point — it was her story to tell - as grievous and harsh HER recollections could be perceived, as sporadic and (seemingly) disjointed the chapters were, the sentiments were still all h ...more
Gavin Stephenson-Jackman
An unusual story of family, death, separation, and estrangement. In telling the story of her brother Devon's death from AIDS. Ms Kincaid explores family relationships between herself, her mother, stepfather, and half brothers. She tells of her estrangement and separation from not only her family, but also from the land of her birth. This was certainly not what I was expecting when I started reading, but lends an insight into a world strange to someone from outside. ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
like this if you cry every time
Rachel Helms
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sad in a dissociative way... but I enjoyed it. I suppose I relate to Jamaica's view of grief and grieving. Her writing is exploratory, not in a linear sense, but teased out little by little. Some don't enjoy this style of writing, slightly leaning towards stream of consciousness, but to me it adds a little sincerity. ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Warning: This book is masterfully written yet too painful to read. One beautiful spot, "I had come to understand love, something so immediate it was always in front of me even when my back was turned away from it, something so immediate it was like breath itself." ...more
Ashley Hietpas
Beautiful, sad, frustrating and poetic. I definitely need to read more works by her.
Apr 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic read, really admirably done.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was kind of a weird introduction to Jamaica Kincaid. She was on my mental list of authors to try, so when I saw this book at a church book sale, I picked it up. It's very rambly; by the end of a sentence you often have no idea what or whom Kincaid was talking about at the beginning and have to backtrack. She also has no issue speaking ill of the dead, and of the living. It's a bitterly frank memoir about her brother who was dying (and eventually died) of AIDS, but mostly the book is about K ...more
Aug 25, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caribbean

Nigh unreadable. The text is a stream-of-consciousness rambling of Jamaica Kincaid trying to understand her relationships with her mother and half-siblings and trying to address her failings (is it grief? love? who knows, she certainly doesn't) surrounding the death of her youngest brother. The text is narrated in a circular style, and the author writes almost in free association. While this could work in a text, here, it doesn't.

The rambling, disassociated nature of the text eliminates
Rob Williams
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Short but sweet one - finished off this morning having only been around 150 pages long. I picked this book up from the School of English’s “Free books” box sometime last year I think? Anyway, Jamaica Kincaid came up in “Girl, Woman, Other” and I thought it may be a good idea to read the only book I possess by her.

Firstly, I really enjoyed her work, but not enough to warrant further exploration of the author. Dealing with the loss of her brother, Kincaid writes a journal/diary style description o
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Relationships within families can be complicated - and Kincaid is unflinching as she looks at the relationships in her own family. This is really a reflection on grief and family and is focused primarily around the time she spent with her brother and her mother while her brother was dying of AIDS in Antigua. There is a definite rawness to the emotion here as she balances her care for her family members along with frustration and resentment. I appreciated that she doesn't try to make anything swe ...more
Sarah Valerie
A book full of raw, honest emotions. I don't think I ever read book like this— a memoir — that digs so deeply into the author's psyche. Very interesting. The style of writing is also unique. Many run-on sentences full of commas. It made it a bit hard to follow along, but it reads like speech— reading the text allowed helped a lot with understanding the flow of Kincaid's writing.

This book was for an English course, and it helped a lot in understanding trauma and how one copes with it. As Kincaid
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book, maybe I read it at a good time. Kincaid has a kind of rambling train of thought, which a couple of times I had to reread to make sure I had everything right, but otherwise I liked her portrayal of emotion about her brother’s illness and death and the tangled web of family- how emotions are not straightforward, but wrapped around events and memories. Descriptions of people and how she relates them to the reader are sometimes lengthy, but conveys that gut reaction one has ...more
Note: if this was a book by an American/British author, it probably would have gotten two stars. I dislike it when five sentences or less are on each page-- every statement is a long and drawn out sentamce involving three other similar and qualifying statements. The novel felt so much longer than it actually was and the characters really fell flat for me. One thing I did enjoy was the casual insight into Antiguan life, although there wasnt a whole lot of it. It brings a lot into focus about our ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book must come directly from her mind to the page. The thoughts are rapid and occasionally disjointed but come full circle and connect again. Almost journal-like ... an interesting read. I’d go with 4.5 stars if that was an option. Family dynamics are so powerful and like this book not truly linear. This one will stay with me for some time but I’m not sure if it would be one I would recommend to a friend... but I think you should read it.
Laine Meadows
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written

My brother is written with the cadence of waves rolling onto shore. Kincaid's use of repetition gives her prose a poetic feel that is bitter sweet. She writes about anger and bitterness and not loving people in her family yet her actions speak of tenderness and care and love. Her story is about her complicated feelings towards the members of her complicated family. It is one that I found to be resonant and deeply touching.
Joanne Kelly
Jun 18, 2020 rated it liked it
I tried to appreciate the poetic quality of Kincaid's writing, but I found the repetiton boring. How many times do we need to hear that her father was not her biological father? Surely a dozen times would have been plenty. Yes, her story is raw and grittty, and her relationships with family members are complicated. But I couldn't help wondering if she was trying to meet a word-count goal on a short turnaround. I wish she had had time to edit her work. ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Exploring the way sympathy, in feeling and action, is often combined with anger and resentment, the first half of this book is almost perfect. The second half is frustratingly repetitive, especially in its ridiculous parenthetical clarifications - like, I get that your dad was not your biological father, damn. Nonetheless, a Goodread. (5/5 + 3/5)/2 = 4 stars.
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Jamaica Kincaid is an Antiguan-American novelist, essayist, gardener, and gardening writer. She was born in St. John's, Antigua (part of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda). She lives in North Bennington, Vermont (in the United States), during the summers, and is Professor of African and African American Studies in Residence at Harvard University during the academic year.


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“This way of behaving, this way of feeling, so hysterical, so sad, when someone has died, I don't like at all and would like to avoid. It's not as if the whole thing has not happened before, it's not as if people have not been dying all along and each person left behind is the first person ever left behind in the world. What to make of it? Why can’t everybody just get used to it? People are born and they just can’t go on and on, but it is so hard, so hard for the people left behind; it’s so hard to see them go, as if it had never happened before, and so hard it could not happen to anyone else, no one but you could survive this kind of loss, seeing someone go, seeing them leave you behind; you don't want to go with them, you only don't want them to go.” 7 likes
“I only now understand why it is that people lie about their past, why they say they are one thing other than the thing they really are, why they invent a self that bears no resemblance to who they really are, why anyone would want to feel as if he or she belongs to nothing, comes from no one, just fell out of the sky, whole.” 5 likes
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