Study Guide

Autobiography of My Dead Brother Men and Masculinity

By Walter Dean Myers

Men and Masculinity

Chapter 1
Rise Davis

"Yeah, well, he went out like a man," Rise said.

"Yo, Rise, the brother got wasted in a drive-by," I said. (1.19-1.20)

Rise seems to equate violence with manliness, but Jesse calls him on it. Getting shot in a drive-by isn't a "manly" way to go—it's senseless and random and terrible.

Chapter 2
Rise Davis

"Eventually you reach manhood, then you got to go through or turn around and go back," [said Rise.]

"This isn't about manhood," C.J. said. "This is about crime." (2.43-2.44)

Rise says that supporting Mason is the manly thing to do—he really seems to equate masculinity with violence—and this time C.J. calls him out. Committing crimes isn't manly; it's just breaking the law.

Chapter 3

Rise had always been taller than me […]. Then last year I saw that I had caught up with him and could look him right in the eye. I stood next to him and he saw what was going on, but just sniffed at me and said I still didn't smell like a man. (3.25)

The "old" Rise felt comfortable joking about masculinity, but now he seems to take it super seriously. He tries to knock Jesse down a notch when he senses him becoming his physical equal.

Chapter 14

Dad couldn't express his ideas as easily as Mom could, and I think that pissed him off sometimes. (14.24)

Jesse's father has a hard time expressing his feelings, which translates into some real anger management issues. Intuitively, Jesse understands that this has something to do with his father's ideas about manliness.

"You want me to do all the cleaning and cooking, I'll do it!" He raised his voice some more. "I'll quit my job and stay home and be the housewife, because I sure can't be no man around this house." (14.21)

Jesse's dad has some really outdated ideas about gender roles. The way he sees it, his wife should do all the stuff around the house, never mind that she has a "real" job, too.

Chapter 16
C.J. Europe

"He called me a faggot," C.J. said. (16.41)

When Little Man accuses C.J. of being gay, C.J. can't just laugh it off. In fact, it makes him cry. What does this tell you about gender norms in their community?

Chapter 18

I had read all the bits about black men not being able to express themselves and turning to violence to show their anger, but it didn't mean boo to me when it was me being hit. (18.1)

Jesse understands why his father punched him—but that doesn't mean he thinks it was okay. Reasons, shmeasons. Do you think this inspires Jesse to be a different sort of man than his father?

Chapter 19
Jesse Givens

"I don't know," I said. "If I don't come, will you think I'm weak?" (19.31)

Jesse knows that his own manliness isn't tied to whether or not he goes to Rise's sketchy meeting. But he still worries about how he's perceived by others. He's still a teen, after all.

Chapter 21

Mom wanted us to pray together, and I could see Dad didn't want to—he wanted to be tough because that's what he understood. (21.81)

Jesse knows that his father's masculinity is something of a performance. Jesse, however, doesn't feel the same need to perform (at least at home); during the family prayer, he says he and his mother get emotional.

Chapter 23

The paper said the police found him hiding on the roof of his house. I was glad to know they got him, but I was mad when they put in that he had been crying when they took him to jail, as if crying was something to be ashamed of doing. (23.19)

Jesse has some serious media literacy skillz. He knows that crying is a perfectly reasonable reaction to being arrested—even for a guy—and seems to recognize that when the media depicts it as noteworthy, it comes at a cost for men.

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