My Brother Moochie

Regaining Dignity in the Face of Crime, Poverty, and Racism in the American South

Publication Date: May 29, 2018

304 pp


List Price US $13.99
ISBN: 978-1-59051-861-8


List Price US $25.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 978-1-59051-860-1

A rare first-person account that combines a journalist’s skilled reporting with the raw emotion of a younger brother’s heartfelt testimony of what his family endured for decades after his eldest brother killed a man and was sentenced to life in prison. 

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 guilt and shame. Drawing on sociological research as well as his expertise as a journalist, he seeks to answer the crucial question of why Moochie and many other young black men—including half of the ten boys in his own family—end up in the criminal justice system. What role did poverty, race, and faith play? What effect did living in the South, in the Bible Belt, have? And why is their experience understood as an acceptable trope for black men, while white people who commit crimes are never seen in this generalized way?

My Brother Moochie provides a wide-ranging yet intensely intimate view of crime and incarceration in the United States, and the devastating effects on the incarcerated, their loved ones, their victims, and society as a whole.

Excerpt from My Brother Moochie

Somehow they made their way out of the bedroom into the kitchen. I can’t remember if Mama was running and daddy was chasing or if she had simply walked to where the greenish gas stove stood and he followed a few seconds or minutes later. There is no aroma of sausage and eggs and grits wafting through the air in my memory. It looks like the dark of morning, though everyone is fully dressed. The house is serene, eerily quiet.

Then it unfolded as it often did.

I can remember seeing him hit her, hearing fist bouncing off flesh, maybe the most god-awful sound the ears of a 6-year-old can imagine, especially when it is his father beating his mother.

Daddy was screaming and Mama was hollering and I was cowering in a corner. It felt as though time stood still. Moochie’s sudden arrival shook me from my stupor. He was running into the kitchen, grabbing daddy around the torso, yelling at daddy, telling daddy to stop, pulling on daddy as daddy kept trying to get back to beating Mama, stopping daddy’s arms from flailing towards Mama and whisking him down the hall and out of view, maybe out of the house. By that point in my life, Moochie had become the man in the family, at least to me. He was physically able to handle daddy. He was the football player. Moochie was taller and stronger and more muscular and needed every ounce of his strength to get that skinny man away from Mama.

Before Moochie ran into the kitchen, it felt as though the beating would last forever, that my feet would grow roots in the floor as I stared from the corner. But it was over in a flash, because of Moochie. It wasn’t the first time my oldest brother saved my mother from my father, nor was it the last time she needed saving from him, or me from that corner.

“With a keen understanding of systemic racism…My Brother Moochie delves into a rarely explored side of the criminal justice system: the families of the perpetrators…powerful.” —New York Times Book Review

“Bailey’s memoir is a triumph, a painful indictment of American inhumanity woven with threads of grace and love…an extraordinary book about crime, punishment, redemption, and the empowerment that can spring from adversity…nuanced, original, and remarkably clear-sighted.” —The Guardian

“An elegant memoir that speaks to the inequities of the criminal justice system and the damage done to family and community when loved ones are locked away…Bailey tells his story with a raw honesty [and] boldly examines the fault lines etched so sharply in our current cultural landscape.” —USA Today

“[A] beautifully written book. Its author will inevitably be compared with Ta-Nehisi Coates, recently hailed as the essential voice of black America. But Mr. Bailey’s writing has much more concrete detail on lives lived one misjudgment away from prison.” —The Economist

“Deeply moving and powerfully written…[Bailey’s] unflinching account of his brother’s suffering is paired with reflections on community, race relations, and the impacts of poverty, crime, and shame.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Bailey refuses to make things easy for either his readers or himself; he avoids pat analysis of the scourge of racism and never settles for simple answers…There’s a catharsis for all by the end but no smooth path or easy arrival.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Eye-opening…My Brother Moochie represents a much larger story about the deeply rooted effects of systematic racism, the Jim Crow South and how race, poverty, violence, crime, opportunity and drug abuse intersect.” —Ebony

“Bailey has a relatable, multifaceted story to tell…compelling.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Issac Bailey’s book is one part call to action and another part mirror. A powerful reminder that we are given our skin and genetic fingerprint by nothing short of a lottery, but how we stand in it is often a product of how the world sees or doesn’t see us. My Brother Moochie should be on the desk of every schoolteacher, student, and policymaker in this country.” —Jennifer Thompson, Founder/President of Healing Justice and coauthor of Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption

“In page-turning prose, Bailey explores the self-hatred engendered in him, his immediate family, and his broader communities, by the intersecting oppressions of racism, poverty, violence, and physical disability. But this is also a story of redemption. My Brother Moochie is, in fact, two eloquently interwoven coming-of-age stories: the author’s own story of growing up, silenced by a debilitating stutter but free to roam the streets of his neighborhood, and ultimately his country; and Moochie’s story of growing up, loudly speaking his truth, but only from within the cinderblock confinement of prison walls. The result is a read simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming.” —Keramet Reiter, author of 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement

“Searing honesty—this is what most strikes me about Issac Bailey’s brave narrative. In paying tribute to fierce, at times despairing filial and familial love, he holds a mirror to the reader, daring any of us to deny the most self-evident of truths: human beings are deeply flawed and all of us are more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” —Carol E. Quillen, President, Davidson College