What David Chariandy wants Londoners to know before reading Brother

David Chariandy has a call out to all Londoners who plan to pick up his book Brother — it's time to think about how we connect to stories on the page.

The London Public Library has unveiled its One Book One London 2018 choice

David Chariandy tells London Morning Brother is an informed piece of fiction, rooted in the same place he grew up in but also quite different than his childhood. (Joy Van Tiedemann/McClelland & Stewart)

David Chariandy has a call out to all Londoners who plan to pick up his book Brother — it's time to think about how we connect to stories on the page.

"How can you start thinking about being more intimately attuned to aspects of your own life or aspects of other people's lives you hadn't thought about," said Chariandy.

The London Public Library announced the novel as its One Book One London choice for 2018, an initiative that's best described as a city-wide book club.

Brother tells the story of a young man Michael growing up in Scarborough in the early 90s and his relationship with his older sibling Francis.

"It's really a story of coming to age and growing up," said Chariandy.

But the novel, which was long listed for the Giller Prize in 2017, also depicts a life with the realities of racism, police violence and poverty.

"It shows what it's like to feel a certain gaze ... to be eyed a certain way and try to find hope in the world and move forward," said Chariandy.

Beyond the pages

Chariandy said writing about racism related to that time and place was essential for the story. It's a life he understands well.

The author grew up in Scarborough himself, in walking distance of the neighbourhood where Brother is set.

And like the main character, the library was also a refuge for Chariandy.

"[My parents] wanted to provide books for me but that was often times very difficult," said Chariandy.

"Just to sit and read in a quiet space was extremely valuable and to take out books and thereby discover worlds I wouldn't have discovered otherwise." 

Chariandy said he wanted to pay homage to libraries and represent the centrality of such institutions to many neighbourhoods.

London's central library has made sure to stock its shelves with several copies of the book and it's holding weekly discussion groups at branches across the city. Chariandy will be visiting the library in April.

"It's an honour to be read by anyone, but to be selected is a very special honour," he said.


Julianne Hazlewood is a multimedia journalist who's worked at CBC newsrooms across the country as a host, video journalist, reporter and producer. Have a story idea?