In times of darkness, books provide me comfort. I picked this up after it was recommended in NPR’s book concierge as a best book of 2017 and finally got around to reading it. I took a lot of history courses in college that studied Asian and Middle Eastern cultures because so much of what we are taught is centered on US and European History. I have always been interested in Japanese history and culture. My Brother’s Husband tells the story of Yaichi, a stay-at-home dad in the Tokyo suburbs, raising his daughter Kana. He is divorced from his wife, Natsuki. One day his brother’s husband, Mike Flannagan, shows up on their doorstep. He tells them is is the widower of Yaichi’s deceased brother, Ryoji. What follows is a look at the largely still-closeted gay culture in Japan,, examining the heart of what you believe and how you grew up, and a story about how families drift apart even when it seems there are no hard feelings.
Yaichi invites Mike into his home, even though he is clearly uncomfortable with him. Kana asks Mike a million questions like all children do and wants to know as much as she can about Mike and her Uncle. She has no biases toward Mike, and because of this, she makes Yaichi think about his own biases and how he treated his brother. Mike wants to explore the area that Ryoji grew up in, and slowly starts telling Yaichi about his life with his brother. Yaichi in turn starts telling Mike about his childhood with Ryoji.
This book is lovely, compassionate and even funny at times while dealing with serious issues. It is told from Yaichi’s point of view and we see him wrestle with the death of his brother, his homophobic thoughts, and his clear resentment of Mike, who loved his brother when he and his brother has drifted apart. It’s a managa, so it may take some getting used to for people who are not used to reading from right to left. I really enjoyed reading this, and look forward to the second volume.