My Brother Moochie Characters
The main characters in My Brother Moochie are Issac J. Bailey, Moochie Bailey, and Bet Bailey.
- Issac J. Bailey is the memoir’s author, a journalist who explores his family’s struggles, his personal challenges, and America’s troubled past with a candid voice.
- Moochie Bailey is Issac’s older brother. Serving a life sentence for a murder committed in his youth, Moochie changes greatly during his time in prison.
- Bet Bailey is Issac’s mother, a resilient and principled woman who has devoted her life to the welfare of her community.
Last Updated on May 12, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 812
Issac J. Bailey
Issac J. Bailey is an award-winning journalist and the author of the memoir My Brother Moochie and the essay collection Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland. Issac is married to Tracy, an educator, and has two children, Kyle and Lyric. As the author and narrator of My Brother Moochie, Issac discusses his life experiences as a Black man with brothers in prison. Highly intelligent and athletically gifted, Issac was nonetheless challenged by a childhood marked by poverty, domestic abuse, and a worsening stutter.
When his beloved older brother Moochie was arrested for murder, Issac’s world collapsed overnight. A grieving Issac blamed Moochie for getting arrested and began to internalize some of society’s suspicions about Black men. While Issac worked hard to avoid Moochie’s fate, he could not ignore for long the racism that has contributed to his family’s troubles. With time, Issac began to find his voice as a writer, accepted his lifelong stutter, and learned to love Moochie and his other law-breaking brothers despite their flaws. During this journey, he also learned to express his anger against racism in America more freely and advocate openly for Black convicts. Issac is unflinchingly honest and judgmental, including towards himself, but he tempers his opinions with empathy.
Herbert “Moochie” Bailey is the oldest of Issac’s ten siblings. Charismatic and courageous, Moochie often saved his mother, Bet, from being beaten up by his father. Though Moochie was idolized by his younger siblings, he fell into a life of crime, ultimately getting arrested for the murder of local store owner James Bunch. Moochie was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crime. Several years later, he confessed to the killing to Issac.
In prison, Moochie turned to Rastafarianism, growing dreadlocks, adopting the name Mtume Obalaji Mfume, and advocating an Afrocentric world view. Though Moochie’s siblings found the change in his personality baffling and aggravating, to Moochie it was a way to resist systemic white injustice. Stubborn and patient, Moochie often opted for solitary confinement to preserve his personal beliefs and choices, such as sporting dreadlocks and maintaining a vow of silence. Gradually, Moochie grew mellower, especially after enrolling in a self-improvement program in prison. He was released on parole in 2014.
The matriarch of the Bailey clan, Elizabeth “Bet” Bailey McDaniel is a woman of uncommon courage and conviction. Forcibly married off at thirteen to Issac and Moochie’s father and physically abused by him, Bet has tried to be a responsible mother to her eleven children. After leaving her first husband, Bet married Harris McDaniel. As if to compensate for her son Moochie’s arrest for murder, Bet immersed herself in community service, fostering many children and providing shelter to the homeless in her town. Despite being denied an education because of her early first marriage, Bet earned her GED half a century later. Bet embodies resilience and grace and often serves as Issac’s moral compass.
Issac’s father, Herbert "Herb" Bailey, is an authoritarian man who frequently beats up his wife, Bet, and his son Moochie. Though Issac grows up hating his father, in time he comes to see him as a complex person who is a product of his particular upbringing and history, having lived in the violent Jim Crow South.
An educator who runs a non-profit literacy program for at-risk kids, Tracy is Issac’s wife and the mother of Kyle and Lyric. Like Bet and Sherrie, Tracy is a prominent feminine role model for Issac. Tracy displayed great empathy when she accepted Issac’s visions of harming her as...
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signs of PTSD and encouraged him to see a therapist.
Issac’s younger brother James was sentenced to sixteen years in prison for his alleged involvement in an armed robbery. Issac believes James’s exposure to the addicts Bet helped may have led him to an involvement with drugs and crime.
One of Issac’s youngest two brothers, Zadoc initially got in trouble with the law, angering Issac. However, Zadoc subsequently reinvented himself, building a stable family and career and giving Issac hope that reformation after prison is possible. Zadoc’s fate foreshadows Moochie’s release.
The youngest of Issac’s brothers, Jordan was athletically gifted enough to potentially play in the National Football League. Jordan’s girlfriend Kim, with whom he shares a daughter, was killed in an unfortunate drive-by shooting targeting Jordan. Though he initially blamed Jordan for Kim’s death, Issac eventually began to view his youngest brother as a product of his circumstances. Accepting Jordan was a crucial step in the journey of Issac’s self-acceptance.
Intelligent and kind, Issac’s older sister, Sherrie, is a role model for her siblings. Unlike Issac, Sherrie has a good relationship with Herb.