Campbell, Bebe Moore. Brothers and Sisters. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. 1994.
Discrimination is discrimination. When asked about Brothers and Sisters Campbell said if a person of color is ignored by a white waitress it is just as psychologically damaging as if the person of color is made to sit at the back of the bus. I see her point but there is a small part of me that has to ask two questions. One, is the person of color being ignored because of skin color or is the person of color being ignored by a really bad waitress? Two, does a book like Brothers and Sisters bring attention and awareness or fuel the fires of racism? I was talking to someone yesterday about the holocaust. Being German he was complaining that his country, “beats a dead horse” when remembering and making up for the atrocities of World War II. He feels that the constant reminders actually keep hate alive and if the powers that be let history slide into hazy remembrance “it wouldn’t be such a big deal.”I disagree but I have to admit it is an interesting point.
It took me a few pages to get into Brothers and Sisters. The introductions of the characters is exaggerated ; their personalities are inflated beyond reality. I found them to be too stereotypical. The need to illustrate the main character, Esther Jackson, as perfect is overdone. In the first chapter Esther is described as “efficient, tall, large breasted, slim hipped, strong, coordinated, powerful, smooth cocoa-colored skinned, muscular legged, pleasant faced, professional, congenial, full lipped, beautiful, meticulous, painfully perfect, impeccable, devoted to duty, well-enunciated, precise.” Yet, it is hard to like her because when it comes to dealing with white people she has these attributes, “rage, anger, venomous, hostility, violent, frowning.” She becomes wild-eyed and shaking at times. The opinions and racism Esther demonstrates are so vehement I have to wonder if they aren’t a reflection of the author’s feelings.
Esther Jackson is trying to make a career for herself at a downtown Los Angeles bank right after the April 1992 riots. She currently works in middle management but dreams of climbing higher. She knows that because of the color of her skin she must work twice as hard as her white counterpart to climb the corporate ladder. Despite the unfairness of the situation Esther herself practices prejudices when it comes to relationships and friendships. Beyond skin color she screens for financial status. Her motto is “no romance without finance.” But, when she allows herself to become friends with a white woman and finds herself dating a poor man things get complicated. In Brothers and Sisters you meet all kinds of characters with personal problems with society. The politics and backstabbing of all involved was fascinating. The entire story was a game of cat and mouse but exactly who was chasing who keeps you guessing.
Author Fact: Bebe Moore Campbell died at the age of 56 from brain cancer.
Book Trivia: Brothers and Sisters was written to encourage discussion about discrimination.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust twice. First, in the chapter called “African American Fiction: She Say (p 12). Then, in the chapter called California, Here We Come (p 50).