Study Guide

Autobiography of My Dead Brother Criminality

By Walter Dean Myers

Criminality

Criminal activity is a huge part of daily life in Jesse's neighborhood. Over the course of Autobiography of My Dead Brother, we read about drug deals, theft, and even murder committed by a cast of teenage criminals including Mason, Little Man, and Rise. On the other hand, there's Sidney, a good cop who works hard to keep neighborhood kids out of trouble. And on the third hand, there are some of Sidney's colleagues—the bad cops—who are criminals even though they're supposed to be the good guys.

Generally speaking, the book suggests that the way for kids to stay out of trouble is to find a way to express themselves (think: wholesome hobbies like drawing and playing the piano). But even then, it can be hard—sometimes Jesse feels sucked into Rise's schemes even though he doesn't want to be.

Questions About Criminality

  1. What do you think attracts Rise to the criminal life? What does it offer him that he might feel he's missing?
  2. Find two specific examples of things Sidney does to help keep neighborhood kids out of jail. What does this reveal about the role criminality plays in the community?
  3. Rise sells drugs and Tania is a prostitute. What do you think they have in common, besides living in the same neighborhood? What do these similaries tell you about the decision to break the law?

Chew on This

Autobiography of My Dead Brother suggests that criminality is unavoidable in Jesse's neighborhood. It touches everyone.

Autobiography of My Dead Brother suggests that criminality comes down to choice—and no one has to choose to be involved in crime.

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