Books·Canada Reads 2019

Brother by David Chariandy

David Chariandy's novel explores questions of masculinity, family, race and identity.

Defended by Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray is defending David Chariandy's novel Brother on Canada Reads 2019. (CBC)

Brother takes us inside the lives of Michael and Francis. They are the sons of Trinidadian immigrants, their father has disappeared and their mother works double, sometimes triple, shifts so her boys might fulfil the elusive promise of their adopted home.

Coming of age in The Park, a cluster of town houses and leaning concrete towers in the disparaged outskirts of a sprawling city, Michael and Francis battle against the careless prejudices and low expectations that confront them as young men of black and brown ancestry — teachers stream them into general classes; shopkeepers see them only as thieves; and strangers quicken their pace when the brothers are behind them. Always Michael and Francis escape into the cool air of the Rouge Valley, a scar of green wilderness that cuts through their neighbourhood, where they are free to imagine better lives for themselves. (From McClelland & Stewart)

David Chariandy's Brother is both an exceptional coming of age story and a poignant meditation on love, loss and humanity.- 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize jury

Brother won the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the 2018 Toronto Book Award and the 2018 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. It was also longlisted for the 2017 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

The film and television rights for Brother have been picked up by Toronto production companies Conquering Lion and Hawkeye Pictures, with Clement Virgo attached to adapt the screenplay and direct the film.

Brother by David Chariandy was defended by Lisa Ray on Canada Reads 2019.

Watch the book trailer

Brother trailer

5 years ago
Duration 0:48
Canada Reads trailer for Brother by David Chariandy.

Why David Chariandy wrote Brother

"I'm a fiction writer and this is clearly the work of the imagination. It's set in a time period that is very different from today's world. But I still wanted to capture what Scarborough was really like for a child in the early 1990s, particularly a child with a black mother and a South Asian father growing up at that particular time.

These stories are often overlooked and ignored. I wanted to capture this narrative, one of resilience, creativity, tenderness and love.- David Chariandy

"There was, at that time, a lot of anxiety about visible minorities moving into the area and changing the landscape. I grew up hearing these stories — about people I love and respect, who were profoundly creative and hardworking and simply had dreams of living a good life. These stories are often overlooked and ignored. I wanted to capture this narrative, one of resilience, creativity, tenderness and love."

Read more in David Chariandy's interview with CBC Books.

From the book

He was my brother. The one who told me about lightning and girls. The one who crouched beside me in hideouts when we were little. His shoulder thin and bare against mine, his body always just a skin away. That summer when we were only seven and eight and we climbed the sappy pine busting out of the asphalt behind the 7-Eleven. Days after reaching for each other's hands to smell and name what clung there still. ('It's Mr. Clean,' my brother finally said, nailing it.) That fall of the same year when he led me to the road-side ditch off Lawrence Avenue and piled the loose and blowing stuff of this land over our bodies like a blanket, hoping for cover. Leaves of orange and red, dried weeds and twigs. Also trash like paper and foil and the many shredded plastic bags blown here from fast food shops. Our hats camouflaged all guerilla style with twigs and mashed up drinking straws. Our faces already the color of earth.

From Brother by David Chariandy ©2017. Published by McClelland & Stewart. 

Interviews with David Chariandy

Canada Reads author David Chariandy on why he writes about place, identity and belonging

5 years ago
Duration 3:12
In this special Canada Reads 2019 edition of the CBC Books video series, the author of Brother talks about how he defines love and understanding in his fiction.
Columnist Aparita Bhandari on Scarborough by Catherine Hernandez, Brother by David Chariandy and That Time I Loved You by Carianne Leung.

More about Brother from CBC Radio

Why Lisa Ray chose Brother for Canada Reads

"Brother, set in Scarborough in the 1990s by David Chariandy, takes us through the universal experience of loss through a coming of age story of two brothers of Trinidadian origin. In Brother, we bear witness to the workings of kinship, class, gender, love, race, thwarted hopes and senseless tragedy. This poetic book is a ballad, it is now. It is an opportunity for Canada to claim its own modern-day opera set in our own backyard. 

In Brother, we bear witness to the workings of kinship, class, gender, love, race, thwarted hopes and senseless tragedy.- Lisa Ray

"Brother will linger long after you finish, move you to analyze your own prejudices, to look beyond headlines and question your own idea of what is valour and heroism."

Read more in Lisa Ray's interview with CBC.

Lisa Ray on Brother

About Lisa Ray

Lisa Ray is one of India's most successful cover models and an award-winning actress whose work spans multiple countries in film (the Oscar-nominated Water) television (Top Chef Canada), theatre (John Murrels's Taj) and modelling. Ray has become a high profile global advocate for cancer and stem cell awareness and was honoured with a Diamond Jubilee Medal for service to Canada. Her Amazon Prime series Four Shots More Please is out now and her next film release is A. R. Rahman's 99 Songs

The Canada Reads 2019 contenders

Other books by David Chariandy