My Brother tells three stories: It tells a story about family and the power of one’s roots and home. It tells a story about AIDS, about ignorance and denial. Finally, it tells a story about values and choices, about the powerlessness and helplessness one can feel in the face of a tradition steeped in superstition and dysfunction.
As a story about family, the book reveals the weakness of enlightenment in the presence of senselessness. Devon Drew, a bisexual drug user, seems on the surface to be a simple man who needs only his mother, his music, and his vices. The relationship between Devon, Mrs. Drew, and Kincaid forms a triangle of miscommunication. Kincaid tells Devon that he must use protection when having sex. He laughs at her. Mrs. Drew does not serve as an arbiter between them, because the status quo reinforces her maternal role. Her martyr complex and the power she wields as mother in times of distress feed her ego and provide her with purpose and meaning.
As a story about AIDS, My Brother presents the realities of life in the developing nation of Antigua. Kincaid left this country for the United States twenty years earlier, and Antigua is now familiar to her only in bits and pieces—a building here, a street there. She has become an outsider. While she can and does offer help, hope, and even life to her brother, she cannot give him her love, and she cannot ultimately save him from himself.
As a story about values, the book depicts two children of the same mother who choose different roads. The daughter leaves her mother, adopts a new name, and creates a new life and a new family. The son embraces his culture and stays with his mother, but he must hide his true self in order to maintain the illusion that he fits comfortably into Antiguan culture.