In April, 1992, Rodney King, an African American, was arrested by Los Angeles police after a high-speed automobile chase. His severe beating at the hands of four policemen, captured on videotape by an amateur photographer, outraged the African American community. When the policemen were exonerated by an all-white jury, Los Angeles erupted in a series of civil disturbances during which fifty-three people were killed and over one billion dollars in property was destroyed. Bebe Moore Campbell’s novel Brothers and Sisters is set in the aftermath of these historical events.
The novel is a frank exploration of the complexities of race, gender, and social class, represented through the viewpoints of a large cast of characters. Esther Jackson and Mallory Post are professional employees of the downtown regional headquarters of the fictional Angel City National Bank. Esther, on the surface self-possessed and under control, seethes with inner rage at her treatment as a token African American woman. Mallory seeks Esther’s friendship but is puzzled by her seemingly incomprehensible anger. Esther, in turn, is blind to Mallory’s well-intentioned, if naïve, attitude. Each woman tries to understand the other, as they struggle with ethical issues raised by their jobs and the gender discrimination suffered by women of both races.
Mallory, blond and elegant, is a highly paid commercial loan officer. Esther, whose striking good looks attract much attention, is manager of the tellers. She applies for a higher-paying position as a loan officer, a job for which she is qualified, but is denied promotion by the white manager. The issues of race, class, and gender that dominate the story...
(The entire section is 696 words.)