Beyond Jem & Scout


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A child idly re-imagines her family. The middle daughter of three, she casts existing sisters in different roles. Invents new ones. If I were the oldest. The youngest. If there were ten of us. If there were two. If I were the only one. If there were boys?

What IS it like to have a brother? Do you look at him and see the inverse of yourself?  What is it like to have a boy at the dinner table? How do you describe what you see in this world to your brother?

Books are visits to experiences, whole lives, you will never have. The only brother-sister relationships I knew were the ones in stories.

Some Favorite Brothers & Sisters from Literature…

Hansel & Gretel

The fairytale by the Brothers Grimm, and as well, Marie Howe’s poem that asks, What if only one emerged from the forest?  Gretel, From a Sudden Clearing, from the book The Good Thief.

Jamie & Martha

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith.

“Jamie has gone to ‘heaben,’ ” Martha tells the narrator, her brother’s best friend. And he knows, in spite of what his mother says, that the four-year-old understands. Jamie has died. He is not coming back.

Claudia & Jamie Kincaid

The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.

Imagine them grown, siblings with little in common, yet still bonded by their time as runaways, living in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ebenezer Scrooge and Fanny Scrooge Holywell

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Ebenezer is alone at his school when all the other boys have left for the Christmas holiday. Then Fanny arrives to bring her little brother home, having talked their bitter father into allowing it.

Holden & Phoebe Caulfield

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

He loves her unambiguously.

Robin & Harriet Dufresnes

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

In which twelve-year-old Harriet intends to avenge Robin, her older brother, murdered when she was just a baby.

Francie & Neely Nolan

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

Together, they let the man selling Christmas trees pitch the biggest one at them. They remain standing. They win the tree.

Kitty & Guy Fetters

The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett. Growing up in a small Nebraska town with an abusive father, brother and sister are allies. Both understand early on that Guy is gay. When he escapes, he leaves her behind. He becomes  Percival, the Magician.

The Narrator & Meredith

Demonology by Rick Moody.

Meredith collapses in front of her daughter and son on Halloween night, after an evening of trick or treating. She dies. The narrator, her brother, is telling the story of her death and her life. The narrator is not expressly named because his name is Rick Moody. The narrator knows he will be devastated by her loss, by her absence, for the rest of his life.


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