Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 31 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Brothers and Keepers.
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Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir Summary & Study Guide Description

Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Brothers and Keepers: A Memoir by John Edgar Wideman.

Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman focuses on John, the narrator, who is an educated black man, and his brother, Robby, who serves a life sentence in prison for armed robbery and murder. Through John's visits with Robby, the two discuss and examine their lives up to this point to understand how one brother ends up successful and the other ends up in prison.

John's youngest brother, Robby, is a fugitive. He and two other criminals botch an attempted robbery and murder a man. It is November 1975. John left Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the family lives, and lives in Laramie, Wyoming. John feels that Robby is coming to see him. Despite the distance, he feels connected to his brother.

Robby calls. He is in Laramie. John takes him back to his house. In a moment of privacy looking at infant Jamila, John's daughter, John almost asks Robby about the robbery and murder, but he cannot. Robby leaves the next morning and the FBI finds him. He is extradited to Pittsburgh and receives the mandatory sentence for felony murder: life in prison without probation or parole.

John begins his annual visits to Western State Penitentiary, where Robby is a prisoner. John chose a path in life to rise up out of the ghetto via education. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and he is a successful writer and professor.

John and Robby begin to write this book. Robby discusses how he always wanted to party and get success the easy way. He began his downward spiral into heroin and selling heroin on the streets. This eventually led to television scams or selling stolen televisions. Robby says the ghetto mentality is all about the glamor and what is fun in the moment.

Robby tells the story of what happened that fateful night. He felt something bad was going to happen. He and two others attempt to rob a criminal, but one of Robby's crew shoots the criminal. He dies the next morning. Robby and his crew decide to skip town. They take buses to Indiana and Chicago. Robby continues onto Los Angeles, but the others go back to Pittsburgh. Robby ends up in Laramie, John's town in Wyoming.

Robby graduates with an Associate's degree in prison. He is the speaker at the prison graduation. Sadly enough, he is the first and last graduate because the program's funding is cut. In his speech, Robby says he learns that anything meaningful, he must work hard for. He says prisoners need education so they can have a skill and not be society's burden again.

In a letter to John, Robby says his appeals have been turned down and he has lost his motivation. The prisoners keep losing their rights. They have no access to jobs, education or anything with hope.

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This section contains 470 words
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