‘Brother’ by David Chariandy

The Canada Reads 2019 debate has the theme, “One Book To Move You” and the majority of the finalists are memoirs. Of the two that are not, one is based on the author’s grandmother’s life, and the other is this one, a novel about immigrant youth and racial profiling that reads like a true story.

It’s going to be tricky for Canada Reads contenders this year, to debate several tragic harrowing stories. How does one decide between racism, genocide, child abandonment, flight from war, and mental illness?

Set in Scarborough, Brother is the heartbreaking story about siblings caught up in a police crackdown following a tragic shooting. They have goals and dreams for the future but their situation is far from hopeful. The writing is beautiful and it is really amazing how much the author was able to pack into a relatively slim novel, exploring race, immigration, identity, masculinity, prejudice, survival, poverty, single parenting, community, family, friendship, loyalty, grief, and loss. But the difficulties for immigrant youth described so elegantly in this novel, are sadly a reality for many Canadians. It actually reminded me of a book I read last year; Brother felt like a poetic version of Why Young Men? by Jamil Javani. Both books are very interesting and eye opening.

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