At the age of nine, Issac J. Bailey saw his hero, his eldest brother, taken away in handcuffs, not to return from prison for thirty-two years. Bailey tells the story of their relationship and of his experience living in a family suffering from guilt and shame.
Issac Bailey’s memoir is a triumph, a painful indictment of American inhumanity woven with threads of grace and love. This is an extraordinary book about crime, punishment, redemption and the empowerment that can spring from adversity. The author, journalist Issac Bailey, is nuanced, original and remarkably clear-sighted about America and himself ... Bailey is a master of seeing things from all sides. His perceptions are so sharp and his writing is so skillful, he convinces the reader that the damage from that murder was nearly as great for his own family as it was for that of his brother’s victim ... If America ever decides to bind up its racial wounds and love itself that thoroughly, it will need to absorb all of the lessons in this remarkable book.
More than a recounting of the woes of dealing with the justice system in the face of poverty and racism, this searching memoir forces readers to confront a pointed question: Can we see the humanity in black people who have done bad things? ... With a keen understanding of systemic racism, he often chronicles the injustices visited upon black America. Yet in his book he grapples with his conflicted feelings about Moochie and other family members who got into trouble with the law. He paints the South not as a place of racist boogeymen, but as a complicated society where defining good and bad requires a bit of context ... Bailey adds layers of complexity to the views on race reflected in his journalism. He knew some good white people in the South who would be there for him at a moment’s notice. Yet the rise of President Trump offered Bailey a sobering reminder that racism still has this country in a chokehold. He was confronted by racist sentiments from white people he thought were friends. Just because white people loved him, he learned, it did not mean that they loved black people.
To say there’s a lot going on here is an understatement. Bailey has a relatable, multifaceted story to tell ... His comprehensive approach, however, distracts from a powerful thesis — what happens when a family’s golden child does a horrible thing — and disrupts the flow of Bailey’s improbable journey from a single-wide trailer to award-winning newspaper columnist ... he walks by, skimps on or contradicts other parts of what could be an engaging story ... Ultimately, My Brother Moochie is interesting, but it reads more like a collection of Bailey’s columns than a fluid autobiography.