Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Written in a singsong prose style heavy with repetition, My Brother chronicles without pause or respite the ebb and flow of Devon Drew’s illness and death from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Drew, the youngest of three brothers, is the half brother of the memoir’s author, Jamaica Kincaid. The two share a mother, Mrs. Drew, but they have different fathers. They also live very different lives. Drew, a man in his thirties, lives with his mother in Antigua. Kincaid, who is thirteen years older, lives in Vermont with her own children. She is an international best-selling and critically acclaimed author, while Drew has no job, dreams of being a musician, and occasionally steals from his own brothers. Even his language does not sound like her language.

In her earlier works, A Small Place (1988) and The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), Kincaid found abundant fault with both motherhood and her motherland. In My Brother, she again grapples with both, as she returns to Antigua to fulfill familial obligations. Kincaid struggles with herself, asking if she loves her brother. She struggles with her mother, a woman who loves her children not well but too much. She struggles with an Antiguan culture that isolates its AIDS patients and waits for them to waste away in lonely squalor. She struggles with her dying brother Devon, a man who rejects her values, questions her motives, and pursues his pleasures at his own...

(The entire section is 584 words.)