Read We Were Brothers by Barry Moser Online


Preeminent illustrator Barry Moser renders the memories of his youth--in luminous drawings and candid prose--on his quest to understand how he and his identically raised brother could have become such very different men.     Barry and Tommy Moser were born of the same parents, were raised in the same small Tennessee community where they slept in the same bedroom and were pPreeminent illustrator Barry Moser renders the memories of his youth--in luminous drawings and candid prose--on his quest to understand how he and his identically raised brother could have become such very different men.     Barry and Tommy Moser were born of the same parents, were raised in the same small Tennessee community where they slept in the same bedroom and were poisoned by their family’s deep racism and anti-Semitism. But as they grew older, their perspectives and their paths grew further and further apart. From attitudes about race, to food, politics, and money, the brothers began to think so differently that they could no longer find common ground, no longer knew how to talk to each other, and for years there was more strife between them than affection. When Barry was in his late fifties and Tommy in his early sixties, their fragile brotherhood reached a tipping point and blew apart. From that day forward they did not speak. But fortunately, their story does not end there. With the raw emotions that so often surface when we talk of our siblings, Barry recalls why and how they were finally able to traverse that great divide and reconcile their kinship before it was too late. Featuring Moser’s stunning drawings, especially commissioned for the book, this powerful true story captures the essence of sibling relationships—all their complexities, contradictions, and mixed blessings....

Title : We Were Brothers
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781616204136
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 192 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

We Were Brothers Reviews

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-05-20 17:30

    Memory and perspective. Bullying and its effects. Racial prejudice and the mixed messages received by brothers raised near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I am sure many of us realize how complicated relationships between siblings can be. Raised in the same house, our memories can be different, our experiences perceived differently. So it was between Barry and Tommy Moser. Bad experiences at military school and the long term effects. Physical fights between the brothers, with Barry, the younger most often the loser. Differences in the way they saw black and white people. All these things were a bone of contention between the bothers for a very long time.Told in straightforward, simple prose this is a wonderful story of brothers, estrangement and at last reconciliation. It is touching, heartfelt and reminds us of how important family is truly. Also how short time can actually be. After finishing this I went and called my younger sister, closest to me in age. We haven't seen each other in over a year. Too long.

  • Gail Cooke
    2019-05-04 09:45

    As I had many times seen the pleasure Barry Moser’s art brought to children and adults alike I was eager to read his memoir. Of course, after years of admiring his work I had a picture of Moser the man in my mind - it was far from the truth. Born in Chattanooga at a time when the city was rife with racism and anti-Semitism Moser also found these views expressed in his own home and accepted by his older brother, Tommy. This created a rift between the two that widened with the years. In the school yard both boys were ripe for bullying - Barry was fat and not at all athletic, Tommy had developmental problems that held him back in school. At home the boys fought almost nonstop - at one time so violently that the police were called. As the years passed Tommy dropped out of military school and retained the racist and anti-Semitic views with which Barry totally disagreed. After studying theology and becoming a preacher Barry turned to art full time. Eventually in adulthood the brothers exchanged letters which revealed how each may have misjudged the other and the two enjoyed almost ten years of harmony before Tommy passed away. Enriched with Barry’s art We Were Brothers is so much more than a memoir - it is an examination of a time and place in America and life itself.

  • Don
    2019-05-21 11:28

    This book was released this month, but I read an advance reader copy. I am often disappointed by the marketing blurbs that are on the backs of ARCs because they are so sensationalized as to make you think you read a different book than described. I think that these blurbs oft times are dismissive of the work the author has actually done. This came close to being like that for me. Barry Moser is a renowned and award winning illustrator and his writing is gentle storytelling. There is drama in some of the events of this memoir, however the drama promised by the marketing here of a family/brothers ripped asunder (my words) in every possible way by racism and anti-semitism just didn't come through for me.There are dramatic moments of that definitely, but the other parts of the story were more powerful for me. It's more complicated than what is put in the blurb.Aren't all memoirs really more complicated than can be described?

  • Rachael
    2019-05-26 11:27

    The tone of this book is highly conversational. I felt like Barry Moser was sitting next to me, telling me his stories. But what would be fine in conversation doesn't translate well to memoir.This book read like a collection of anecdotes--stories that might be interesting to family members, or those who grew up in Chattanooga in the 1940s/1950s, but I found it hard to connect. About halfway through the book I wanted to stop because it didn't seem like the story that was promised on the book jacket or in the blurbs was ever going to appear.This is billed as a book that examines a sibling relationship. When siblings grow up in the same environment, how does one explain how they become radically different in adulthood? We see a lot of Barry and Tommy growing up, and we see some of their fights, but Moser doesn't ever drill deep to figure out what's going on. Again, we get anecdotes but not a lot of reflection or examination.The book starts out promising, and the end provides some musing, but the reflection upon the anecdotes is completely missing. I also am not clear as to what's behind the deep racism of the Moser family. Maybe it's just enough to know that the boys grew up in the South in the Jim Crow era. Maybe I don't need more explanation than that. But one puzzling thing is never explained: Moser's mother had a dear friend from childhood who was black. They remained good friends through adulthood. That the mother in a racist household would have a black friend is never really examined. How did the mother's husband feel about this? The rest of her family? The neighbors? Why wasn't Vernetta's presence enough to help the children see that racism wasn't the answer? There's a lot of potential in this memoir, but it reads like an early draft. More editing would have helped to tease out the reflection that's needed, especially in the middle of the book.

  • Linda
    2019-05-05 10:43

    This is a book that struck me as one that would have made more sense as a privately published memoir for family and friends. Barry Moser is a brilliant artist and illustrator but a poor writer to my mind and ear. This is ostensibly the story of two siblings who grow up in the same prejudiced Southern household but go in very different directions with their careers and where they live (Barry in New England and his brother, Tommy, still down South). Barry's experiences growing up cause him to look at racial issues differently than the rest of his family and this book is an attempt for him to find answers to how this happened. I found it difficult to keep track of the extended family and all the other people mentioned in passing, making it hard to follow the subtext of actions or remarks. Barry is estranged from his brother for many years and decides to try to find a way to talk about these differences before one of them dies. He starts the "conversation" with a brutal letter that I am surprised his brother answered. The two siblings do come to some kind of peace with each other, but I found no lessons for me about family relationships, community, or racial relations North or South. I felt that the book saw the light of day because of Barry Moser's famous name and not because of the quality of the text or story. I will say that it is a quick read, finished it in an evening.

  • Kathy
    2019-05-18 16:22

    "We Were Brothers" is a beautifully written memoir of 2 young brothers raised in the South in the 40's and 50's. Barry Moser writes eloquently about the time period and his family. Racism was a fact of life, even when not a fact of heart. It was understood and to a certain point, expected, by both blacks and whites. Barry mourns the fact that he and his brother, Tommy, never really close, are so different in attitudes, and that the gap between them is large. During his late 50's, he writes his brother a letter, explaining his anger at him and his longing that they were closer as brothers. His brother responds, and the gap begins to be breached.This short book is a quick read, but one full of honesty. The accompanying illustrations are amazing, and I feel blessed to have seen this part of Moser's talent alone. While reading the book, you might think "what does this have to do with me?", but the fact is, all families are fractious, and Barry's honest appraisal of that, and the willingness of he and his brother Tommy to reconcile is heartwarming.

  • Ann Gainer
    2019-05-04 10:52

    A revealing and provocative memoir of an illustrator I've long admired and knew nothing about. Very candid accounting of his very southern upbringing and difficult sibling relationship.

  • Rita Anderson
    2019-05-12 10:40

    I picked up this book for a number of reasons, one of the reasons being that I do not know much about relationships between brothers. I am a female-my brother has no brothers, and my husband and son have no brothers. So, I thought I could learn more about brothers from this book. Also, I grew up in New England, so I thought I could learn more about the experience of being raised in the south. I was somewhat disappointed in the book-numerous fights between the brothers were documented, and some stories were told about racial prejudices in the south. It was a quick read-it felt like there was not a lot of depth to the stories being told. The best part of the book was toward the end, when letters were exchanged between the brothers and, in the process of communicating, some old wounds were healed. In their twilight years, the brothers made an attempt to understand one another, and to really listen to each other and, by doing this, they enriched their lives.

  • Tiffany
    2019-05-05 13:40

    This book was okay, I don't regret having read it--my criterion for a 2-star rating. Not something I would recommend to anyone else, though (a shame, too, because it's by a local author). To my recollection, I felt as if I was reading a stranger's musings about his life without his offering anything useful or particularly thought provoking to me in return. Moser's life story wasn't interesting enough to me to make this an enjoyable read on its own merits.

  • Anne Francani
    2019-05-13 10:28

    We had met Barry Moser at the Brandywine River Museum a number of years ago when he had an exhibit there. Both his art and his talk were wonderful. I especially like the etchings he did for a King James Bible . . . spectacular. We have watched the movie about the making of that Bible (A Thief Among the Angels: Barry Moser and The Making of The Pennyroyal Caxton Bible) and I have a copy of it. When I saw that he had written this book, I was glad to buy and read it. He isa very interesting man.

  • Kristine Brickey
    2019-05-27 16:27

    Read this while in the midst of an 'Equality for All' unit, teaching Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl with my 8th graders. Truly appreciate the honesty Barry Moser puts forth, as well as the clearly natural use of higher vocabulary.

  • A.J. Hall
    2019-04-30 13:26

    Quick read that gives some insight into Southern culture of the not too distant past. Was entertaining until the resolution where it got a little confusing.

  • Lesa
    2019-04-28 12:29

    If brothers can have such animosity that they fail to actually discuss their differences until they're in their sixties, it's no wonder countries and people worldwide can't find common ground. Barry Moser addresses the first issue, that of brothers, in his memoir, We Were Brothers.Artist and illustrator Barry Moser was born in the same Jim Crow South in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as his older brother, Tommy. They were only three years apart, but Tommy stayed in the south, while Barry went to New England. They both lived with the same racist culture, one in which their mother's childhood friend, Verneta, was not welcomed at the front door when company was in the house, until the night the Ku Klux Klan paraded through town. This story of a family, a neighborhood, and two brothers asks a question that puzzles Moser to this day. Why did he leave the south, especially to escape its racism, while his older brother stayed, expressing racist comments until Barry had the temerity to call him on it?Moser traces it back to feelings of inferiority in his family. They grew up racist. The boys were both poor students in school, bullied there and later in military school. Was racism a way for men who felt inferior, who feared for their status, to feel better about themselves? Barry Moser says they grew up racist, taught that black folks were never as good as them, although his mother wouldn't have survived the death of her first husband if it hadn't been for Verneta. He admitted they were brought up to respect an individual black person. "But as far as our family was concerned the black race was show, shiftless, and ignorant."Barry Moser admits his memoir is based on his memories. His brother is gone, dead of cancer, and his memories might have been different. But, in examining the animosity between the two, and their feelings about race, he searches for answers. How could two brothers, growing up in the same environment, grow so apart?We Were Brothers is a thoughtful book. It's actually a collection of vignettes, small episodes in the lives of two brothers. But, the writing is enhanced by beautiful sketches by Moser, portraits of the family members in the book. Maybe men who are brothers won't be surprised at the occasional viciousness of the fights between Barry and Tommy. It struck me as sad. And, in the context of world events, although the two brothers reunited before Tommy's death, the book doesn't elicit a great deal of hope. Maybe people can unite, but there were years and years of hatred, viciousness and fights before they find common ground.

  • Diane
    2019-04-28 12:27

    Every now and then I crave a good memoir, not any memoir, but I generally look for one that I can relate to, one that is apt to stick with me for one reason or another. We Were Brothers was just such a memoir. In many ways this story reminded me of the sometimes troubled relationship of my own two older brothers who grew up in the late 40's and 50's, both were about the same ages as author and his brother Tommy.The author and his older brother Tommy were born and raised around Chattanooga, TN, and from an early age racism was ever present in their childhood town. The KKK was in full force and the divide between blacks and whites was present everywhere. Through no fault of their own each brother was raise to believe that white people were superior to black people. In many ways their childhood, minus the racism, was typical of many siblings -- sharing a room, riding bikes and trying to avoid bullies, especially since neither boy was athletic. Both were talented artists and each had childhood afflictions that in some ways made learning and success in school a challenge. Tommy had eye issues which kept him behind a few grades in school and may have attributed to his sometimes volatile personality. Barry was dyslexic and more laid back and, despite the issues of both brothers they attended military school even though it was only Barry who graduated.The older the brothers got the greater the divide between them became, because of their adult views on race. While Tommy remained in Tennessee, Barry moved to New England, embarrassed at times by his brother's actions. Although both brothers had families of their own and each experienced professional successes, their views about racism couldn't have been farther apart and, as a result, their relationship turned to ice for a good many years. Fortunately, unlike many fractured relationships that stay that way to the grave, these brothers were able to eventually come to an understanding and make their peace before it is was too late.This memoir was short, fewer than 200 pages, and very well written with several beautiful illustrations included. I enjoyed the story of these brothers and finished their story in one seating. I think this memoir will appeal to more mature readers, especially those who have experienced strained sibling relationships in their own families.

  • Jill Meyer
    2019-05-03 15:47

    Most readers of this review are part of a family unit and have siblings. The relationships between siblings are longer than parent/child relationships; in an average life span, we're there to the end with our brothers and sisters. Our relationships with our sibs is maybe one of the most difficult to write about. We expect unconditional love from our siblings; sometimes we get it, sometimes we don't. Sometimes - even sharing DNA and physical space - we're totally different from our brothers and sisters. This is what author and illustrator Barry Moser discusses in his memoir, "We Were Brothers".Barry Moser and his older brother, Tom, were the only children of a mother left widowed when Barry was a few months old. She remarried a several years later to a man who adopted the boys in both his heart and mind. He provided for the boys and acted as a real father would. "Daddy", their step-father, was an excellent father, and with their mother, provided the boys with a relatively happy early life. But the boys - Barry and Tom - just never got along. They were very different personalities who seemed to react as oil and water. As they grew older, they grew even further apart as Barry moved north from the Chattanooga he was raised in. Moved away from the casual racism, anti-Semitism, and gun culture. It was only late in life they reconciled and came to a middle ground, realising they loved each other and cherished their relationship.Barry Moser is unsparing as he describes the two brothers' lives both together and separately. Fighting both verbally and physically were part of growing up together. Tom Moser still subscribed to the racism he grew up with, while Barry was able to leave his upbringing behind. But the curious thing about the racism Barry writes about is that in their world, the white person might love an individual black person for him or herself, while damning the majority of blacks as a whole. Accompanying the text in the memoir are a few drawings of Barry Moser and his family and friends. The drawings are charming and tone down a bit the sometimes-bitter text. But the book is well worth reading to see how two brothers could grow closer as they aged. Maybe there was some forgiving the other's actions but there was also a belated understanding of each other.A good memoir.

  • Earl
    2019-04-26 13:38

    We Were Brothers is a memoir in which Barry Moser both recalls his childhood and comes to terms with what had been a difficult sibling relationship. Both Barry and his brother Tommy were raised in Tennessee during the 1940s and 1950s when Jim Crow was in full force and the KKK could openly and with wide support parade on their way to burn a cross in someone's yard. From this common beginning Barry and Tommy grew apart and race played both a real and symbolic role in keeping them apart for many years.Most of the first part of the book tells about growing up, the relationships between family, neighbors and schoolmates. Throughout this section Tommy is shown through the lens it seems Barry viewed him right up until the period which takes up the latter portion of the book. It is this last part where the brothers finally share some open honesty and they come to learn that, while they are still very different, they are more alike than they ever realized. I found the treatment of race particularly effective in this memoir. There were no attempts to either sugar-coat what was accepted as "normal" nor overly demonize anyone. Barry clearly shows his strong distaste for his brother's racist comments and feelings but demonstrates that with effort some common ground can be found and thus some progress can be made.I came away without feeling that either Barry or Tommy reflected my personal views, yet I came away with an understanding of both and perhaps most importantly a belief that through honest grappling with divisive issues we as a species can make changes to how we live and think. For anyone who has had a difficult relationship with a sibling, or any relative for that matter, this should serve as a wake-up call to make the necessary steps to try to mend any damage before it is too late.Reviewed from a copy made available through Goodreads First Reads.

  • Todd
    2019-05-14 11:36

    Late in life, Moser writes to his brother, "Just explain to me, if you can...why we are so different--or are we, really, after all?...It haunts me, Tommy. I am proud of who I am. Of what I've done. But this one issue truly haunts me because I think it has everything to do with who I am and what I have done and I don't understand it and I want to understand it" (166). It is this honesty and vulnerability that takes Moser's memoir from what could be a somewhat ho-hum recalling of life in the early 20-th century South and elevates it to a thought-provoking examination of a life. Moser does have much to be proud of. His artwork is exquisite. His lectures are insightful and engaging. In his memoir he does not leave out the truly harrowing racism that surrounded him, but neither does he erase the simple pleasures and beauty of his life either. He is equally honest about himself. While he might not go deeply into his own racist sins, his constant referral to himself as a recovering racist, his highlighting of events that "began" an awakening in himself never let us forget that the voice that records this events was once just as guilty as the characters that he describes. The hard-eyed honesty persuades me that whatever factual errors memory may introduce into the facts of Moser's life, I can trust the the truth of the man telling the story.

  • Sandra Delehanty
    2019-04-26 16:37

    I tuned in to NPR and caught the tail-end of a program exploring difficult adult sibling relationships featuring this author and a couple others, apparently hawking their books. I hoped I might gain some understanding of my failed relationship with my own sister by reading this memoir but I did not. Although his book promises insights about how brothers raised by the same parents in the same household can grow up to be very different, here is what the reader learns in a nutshell: Tom and Barry grew up in racist Tennessee. They fought like brothers. They went their separate ways. They had a major falling out. They made up before Tom died. The End. Not unlike my sister and me; but the narrative is mere story-telling with little suspense, analysis or insight.I am not entirely sure how Mr. Moser managed to get published, except that he "is a preeminent illustrator". Unfortunately, he is not much of a writer. He hints at one point at the presence of additional sib(s) -- sister(s), but they have no place in the memoir. The book feels incomplete. I kept waiting for it to reach its goal. It doesn't.

  • Katie
    2019-05-20 13:34

    I had recommended this book to my book club after reading about it in a few different places. When I began reading it, I hated it and worried what my book club would think. The second half was better, and it did create good discussion. I wish there had been more explanation of some of the vignettes and people introduced. However, it raises good and some introspective questions.

  • Joanie Sompayrac
    2019-05-14 10:51

    Chattanooga native, Barry Moser, wrote “We Were Brothers” as a memoir. He candidly acknowledges that any memoir contains both truth and fiction based on the flaws of memory, but if there is even a fraction of truth in Moser’s memoir (which I have to believe there is) then I feel his heartbreak. In fact, I found myself in tears at certain moments during my read of this book. Moser’s frank discussion of his own family history, his troubled and often violent relationship with his brother, and his healing of his relationship with his brother during his brother’s final years was both enthralling and touching. As an historical perspective, I think this is valuable story. So many younger people believe overt racial prejudice and racial bigotry such as what Moser experienced as a youngster existed many generations ago, but this book clearly demonstrates that our society’s history of racial hatred is far too recent to forget so easily.

  • Debbie
    2019-05-06 10:28

    Recently I met this author and gifted illustrator at an arts and music festival and was interested to read his memoir. I enjoy reading memoirs; to see how people process their pasts and present it to the reading public. So often peace comes in the telling.In this instance Moser's retelling of his painful childhood of being constantly bullied by his only sibling and older brother is written in a conversational, plain spoken way, a series of anecdotes that seem most appropriate to share with immediate relatives. I can imagine valuable conversations ensuing with insights from aunts, uncles and cousins. What seems lacking for the broader audience is deeper introspection and conclusion. What are the lessons learned? How can others avoid raising bullies? Moser's mother seemed to stand by wringing her hands, a witness to the bullying, weakly begging her boys to stop fighting. There are lessons here for parents, but they are left unexplored. Sadly undiscovered.

  • Elaine Bearden
    2019-05-22 10:33

    AdultI picked-up this book when I recognized the author as being a children's book illustrator as well. It is really an interesting read - painting a picture of growing up in the south, and the "rules" of being white or black. Moser does not sugarcoat language either in this "picture" or as he speaks of his relationship with his brother, which could easily turn physically abusive. He had an interesting trajectory to illustration, including military school and ministry - including being a United Methodist student pastor. I really liked that he shared the actual correspondence between himself and his brother which he included. Very poignant. I did think that even though he acknowledges people who helped him edit the book that the tone still repeated itself more than necessary. Nonetheless, fascinating portrait of a place and the people who inhabited it in the American south.

  • Ilana
    2019-05-02 13:42

    OK, so memoirs aren't entirely my thing, but I thought I'd try this one because it sounded so interesting. But it didn't do it for me at all. The writing style was what I didn't like the most. It was so repetitive and stilted. It sounded like he was trying unnaturally hard. It didn't seem like a really person's voice at all. And then I don't know what I learned from this book that I can take with me to think about the world differently. But maybe that's just me.I will give props to Moser for repeatedly acknowledging his own racism and bias despite his work to escape the upbringing that cultivated it in him. I think the points when he was doing that were the most authentic he sounded. Still, it didn't save it for me.

  • Iva
    2019-05-05 13:51

    Moser is known for the many books he has beautifully illustrated. In this brief memoir, which also has drawings, he concentrates on the difficult relationship with his older brother. Growing up in the Jim Crow south, both boys saw it with different eyes: Tommy, the older, stayed in Tennessee and retained his racist and anti-Semitic views, while Barry spent his adulthood in New England happy to escape a place where the KKK could march without anyone challenging their right to do so. Their rift kept the brothers apart for most of their life but they were able to make peace and become friends before Tommy's death. This is a heartfelt examination of both lives. A solid memoir.

  • Carol
    2019-05-06 09:45

    A meditation about a complicated relationship, Barry Moser writes beautifully and with a tender heart of his brother, with whom he had an extremely difficult relationship. The last part, when they make amends, in part because Barry called his brother on his racism and misogyny is truly touching. I give credit to his brother for being able to take in what Barry was so correctly stating, and, it appears, change his attitudes (or at the very least, vocalizing them.) This would be an interesting book to read for people thinking about racism in their families.

  • Tucker
    2019-05-08 17:39

    Barry Moser has written a heartfelt, deeply personal memoir about the fractured relationship with his brother Tommy and their eventual reconciliation. The issue of racism, which was a major contribution to their differences, was handled with honesty and sensitivity, and provided understanding of the environment that encouraged or condoned racist attitudes. Even if you don’t normally read memoirs, this one is definitely worth your time.Thank you to Algonquin Books and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.

  • Jayme
    2019-05-20 15:46

    I love the idea and flow of this book (the memoir element of 'stories told' was moving and satisfying and the illustrations were exquisite), but I felt the author could have done more with the central theme of 'racism and family'. In the last few chapters, I felt unsatisfied, as if details had been left out and the author seem to struggle to convey deep emotions in a clear way that a reader could relate to. I enjoyed the book (quick, easy, read) and I didn't dislike it - I just felt the author could have done more with the material than he did.

  • Jasmine Holloman
    2019-05-06 09:25

    9/4/15: Can't wait to start this book. Excited about winning it! 9/19/15: I won this book through Goodreads First Reads and I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Even though I knew little to nothing about Barry Moser before beginning, I enjoyed reading the story of brotherhood. It is amazing that siblings that grow up in the same house together can sometimes drift apart due to the way life plays out. Yet, this memoir teaches us that life is too short and no matter the differences, we can always evolve, grow, and most importantly, love before it is too late.

  • Wally
    2019-05-25 09:44

    Simply stated, didn't live up to my expectations. Moser does a very good job of putting memoirs into context - -stating over and over that it is his recollection of events and outcomes, not someone else's. His relationship with his brother seemed to have always been contentious and although they made 'peace' in later years, it was from a physical distance. What I missed most about the memoir were the emotions -- only played out when they related to race.

  • Josh
    2019-05-08 13:42

    I heard Moser read three of these brief remembrances-- all of them about his upbringing in a deeply racist southern home, and about his burdened brotherhood with someone largely alien to him--at a conference, and his reflections on racial prejudice hit me in the gut. In the context of the full memoir, though, these reflections are more moving still as a history of brotherly division... and just maybe a graceful reconciliation. Terrific little volume-- told simply, honestly, unflinchingly.