Study Guide

Jesse's Parents (The Givenses) in Autobiography of My Dead Brother

By Walter Dean Myers

Jesse's Parents (The Givenses)

Jesse is pretty close with his folks, but as he gets older, he's finding it more difficult to talk to them about what's going on in his life:

I was tight with my folks in a way. I could say things to them, and they would try not to get too crazy about it even if they were nervous. But there were things they didn't know about. It wasn't as if they were stupid or anything—it was like their brains were in a different place than mine sometimes. (9.1)

This is a pretty classic teen/parent dynamic. Parents just don't always understand, you know? Importantly, though, his parents are around and Jesse feels some closeness to them.

Jesse's mom is his primary caretaker and is pretty open about how much she worries about her son. "Every day of my life I pray for you and hope with all my heart that you'll be all right," she tells Jesse. "That a cab won't hit you and a stray bullet won't hit you and that you'll get a decent education and that no gang will get you and no dope will find its way into you" (17.40). That has to be a lot to carry around day in and day out.

Jesse's dad finds it more difficult to express his feelings, but he worries, too. "The real deal was that he was always imagining something terrible was going to happen to me," Jesse says. "Mom said he was like an old hen sitting on her last egg" (5.1). Sometimes his temper gets away from him—in one memorable scene, he punches Jesse in the face—but Jesse knows that on some level it's because his father cares. Still, he really doesn't appreciate that punch. Seems fair.

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