(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The title of Autobiography of My Dead Brother refers to Rise, a young African American whose life is chronicled by his oldest friend, Jesse, through pictures and comic strips. Jesse and Rise are not literally brothers, but they grew up together. Rise’s grandmother babysat Jesse while Jesse’s parents were working. Neither child had siblings, and they became best friends. After watching an old movie about Native Americans on television, they cut themselves to exchange blood and became “blood brothers.”

The opening episode of the novel is a funeral for a fourteen-year-old African American, a friend of both Jesse and Rise. They attend the funeral, while their friend C. J. plays the organ. The deceased had been killed in a drive-by shooting, and the police do not have any suspects.

The next night Jesse, Rise, and C. J. attend a meeting of the Counts, a social club for teenage boys that meets at a local armory. They are not a gang, although one of the oldest members, Mason, has been trying to convince them to become one. Mason has recently been arrested and has asked the Counts to talk to the main witness against him in the hope of intimidating him into not testifying. Several of the members, including Rise, are in favor of the action and several, including C. J., are against it, so they table their decision. Jesse does not express an opinion.

Another item of business for the Counts is the admission of a new member,...

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(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Bishop, Rudine Sims. Presenting Walter Dean Myers. Boston: Twayne, 1991. First book-length treatment of Myers’s life and work; argues that he is one of the most important young adult fiction authors of his time. Provides detailed analysis of his work up to 1990.

Burshtein, Karen. Walter Dean Myers. New York: Rosen, 2003. Study of Myers’s life and work; aimed at young adult readers with emphasis on how events in the author’s life generated ideas for his books.

Jordan, Denise M. Walter Dean Myers: Writer for Real Teens. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow, 1999. Biography of Myers and a critical study of his work. Written for young adult readers and meant to inspire young African Americans.

McElmeel, Sharon L. “A Profile: Walter Dean Myers.” Book Report 20, no. 2 (September/October, 2001): 42-45. Biographical essay that provides insight into Myers’s writing and life experience.

Myers, Walter Dean. Bad Boy: A Memoir. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. Myers’s autobiography concentrating on his childhood and teenage years.

Myers, Walter Dean. “An Interview with Walter Dean Myers.” Interview by Olumbunmi Ishola. World Literature Today 81, no. 3 (May/June, 2007): 63-65. Emphasizes Myers’s views on music; provides insight into his representation of C. J.’s musical ambitions.

Odean, Kathleen. “Football, Fire, and Fear: High School Boys.” Teacher Librarian 33, no. 4 (April, 2006): 23. This review of several young adult novels featuring teenage boys, including Autobiography of My Dead Brother, points out how Christopher Myers’s illustrations complement the story.

Patrick-Wexler, Diane. Walter Dean Myers. Austin, Tex.: Raintree-Steck Vaughn, 1996. Biography aimed at preteen readers that emphasizes Myers’s early life.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. Walter Dean Myers: A Literary Companion. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2006. Organized alphabetically by topic, this analysis of Myers’s work includes a map of Harlem, a time line, and a genealogy of Myers’s main characters.