Monday, August 29, 2011

Male Monday: We Could Be Brothers

We Could Be Brothers by Derrick Barnes 2010
Scholastic Press

Rating: 1.5/5

IQ "I didn't care anymore if he thought I was tough enough or hard enough or cool enough. All I knew was that when it mattered most, I was friend enough. " pg. 145

Robeson Battlefield and Pacino Clapton come from two very different homes. Robeson (nicknamed Crease by Pacino because of his iron-pressed pants) lives in, as Pacino calls it "a nice chunk of the suburbs slammed right down in the middle of the hood" (pg. 25). Pacino lives in "the hood" and helps his mother pays the bills and watches over his younger siblings after school. Pacino and Robeson wouldn't have met if it weren't for Tariq, a kid who get them both in PSS (Post-School Suspension).

Short summary I know but the book the jacket describes must belong to some other book. And I can't write a more thorough summary because it would give too much away. First, based on the cover, I thought the book involve a variety of narrations from Pacino, Robeson and Tariq. It does not. First, Pacino acts all "hard" and then decides to be friends with Robeson. It happens completely out of the blue in my opinion. Robeson has zero personality, he preaches and preaches and preaches but he's believable because I definitely knew annoying know0it-all kids like him when I was in junior high. I'm not so sure the author intended to make him sound so insufferable though but like Pacino, I was irritated at how he always quoted his father's life lessons at random moments. Robeson's only flaw was that he wasn't a straight-A student which isn't that serious since he's not in high school yet anyway. Pacino's flaw might be that he uses the m-word or likes to fight but neither of those is detrimental or explored in a way to make the reader see why it's so bad.The most annoying aspect of this book was that fact that Robeson explained EVERYTHING in too much detail, the author explained things that a reader should be smart enough to gather based on the text. For example, "You're no guest. You come over so much now it's like you're one of my big-headed boys,' Dad responded to Pacino, calling him one of his sons in a roundabout way" (pg. 162). The author should have faith that the reader will be able to infer that the father is calling Pacino one of his sons based on what the father says, the extra text is unnecessary and it drives me crazy. The extra explanations continue throughout the duration of the book.

I HATED how Robeson talked about Rosilyn, the one girl in PSS with Pacino and Robeson. For a supposedly educated "brotha" he acted extremely ignorant. Again, I think if the author did this on purpose a worthwhile lesson could have been subtly taught but the issue of how Robeson treats Rosilyn is never addressed. Only how Pacino treats her which isn't entirely respectful but sometimes he acted a lot nicer than Robeson. At one point Robeson thinks to himself "[s]he looked like a lady today" (pg. 101) He's in EIGHTH GRADE. I may be naive but I'm fairly certain the guys in my eighth grade class did not care one bit if a girl looked like a lady. Then he goes on to insult her further by thinking that "[s]he had on a pretty silk blouse and some kind of gold necklace that she must have borrowed (pgs. 101-102, emphasis mine). You know what people say about assumptions....why would he even think that she borrowed the necklace? It was just rude and incredibly ignorant and made me mad to no end. True I was already annoyed by the talking down to readers but the Rosilyn incidents didn't help. Furthermore the continuous use of "brotha" was ridiculous. Back in the day I think teenagers used that expression a lot more but I have NEVER heard a teenage Black guy my age say "brotha." Maybe "wassup bro" but usually it's "dude" or "man" or even "n-" or something of that ilk. My father and his friends would be more inclined to say "brotha" and they usually say it as a joke. Therefore I found it hard to believe that Crease and Pacino would walk around saying "brotha" instead of the n-word.

We Could Be Brothers was a book I was waiting on eagerly. I loved the author's first book, a YA novel that was authentic and managed to talk about the importance of teaching Black boys particular lessons in a humorous, subtle manner. Unfortunately this book does not deliver. I felt as though the author talked down to his readers, constantly explaining what was going on in a particular scene with unnecessary dialogue and explanations when the reader could easily understand the situation. The book is preachy and dull. I wish the main characters had included Tariq and that the author had further delved into the heads of all three boys. Instead they remain flat characters that the author uses to make certain points. Initially I was going to give this book a 2 but then I couldn't think of a single reason as to why I would recommend someone read it. The Making of Dr. Truelove was absolutely hysterical. I'm inclined to think that maybe the author should stick to funny YA novels or write nonfiction books about raising Black boys because THIS is just not working.

Disclosure: Received as a gift from Zetta Elliott. Thank you Zetta :)