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Books

Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Brother Alive

by Zain Khalid

From a New York Times Writer to Watch, an astonishing debut novel about family, sexuality, and capitalist systems of control, following three adopted brothers who live above a mosque in Staten Island with their imam father

  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 352
  • Publication Date July 12, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5976-2
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Publication Date July 12, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5977-9
  • US List Price $26.00

In 1990, three boys are born, unrelated but intertwined by circumstance: Dayo, Iseul, and Youssef. They are adopted as infants and share a bedroom perched atop a mosque in one of Staten Island’s most diverse and underserved neighborhoods. The three boys are an inseparable trio, but conspicuous: Dayo is of Nigerian origin, Iseul is Korean, and Youssef indeterminately Middle Eastern. Youssef shares everything with his brothers, except for one secret: he sees a hallucinatory double, an imaginary friend who seems absolutely real, a shapeshifting familiar he calls Brother. Brother persists as a companion into Youssef’s adult life, supporting him but also stealing his memories and shaking his grip on the world.

The boys’ adoptive father, Imam Salim, is known in the community for his stirring and radical sermons, but at home he often keeps himself to himself, spending his evenings in his study with whiskey-laced coffee, reading poetry or writing letters to his former compatriots back in Saudi Arabia. Like Youssef, he too has secrets, including the cause of his failing health and the truth about what happened to the boys’ parents. When, years later, Imam Salim’s path takes him back to Saudi Arabia, the boys, now adults, will be forced to follow. There they will be captivated by an opulent, almost futuristic world, a linear city that seems to offer a more sustainable modernity than that of the West. But this conversion has come at a great cost, and Youssef and Brother too will have to decide if they should change to survive, or try to mount a defense of their deeply-held beliefs.

Stylistically brilliant, intellectually acute, and deft in its treatment of complex themes, Brother Alive is a remarkable debut by a hugely talented writer that questions the nature of belief and explores the possibility of reunion for those who are broken.

Praise for Brother Alive:

A New York Times Writer to Watch This Summer
Named a Lit 16 Debut Book

“Beguiling . . . A nervy, episodic read . . . Khalid is such a gifted commentator that his methods bear close examination . . . [His] sentences abound with florid, poetic metaphors while maintaining the clipped, declarative tempo of Scripture . . . Brother Alive is Rushdie with none of the ceremony, a searing collage of the profound and the mundane.”—Pete Tosiello, New York Times Book Review

“This debut is essential reading for anyone who loves great writing. Zain Khalid is a supremely talented writer and his skills with words dazzle on every page of this book . . . A novel about family, belonging, sexuality, and the insidious influence of capitalism on daily life, Brother Alive reminded me just how powerful a great novel can be. As I finished it I found myself looking at the world in a more expansive way, and that’s something I’m immensely grateful for.”—David Vogel, BuzzFeed

“A stunningly ambitious and complex debut . . . Most profound is Khalid’s deep exploration of grief . . . An engrossing read, a propulsive narrative with lyrical prose that will stay with you long after the last page.”—Sadiya Ansari, Toronto Star

Brother Alive feels like the first work of fiction since the beginning of the pandemic that reflects the mood of the city . . . This book, so focused on the past, sometimes seems to have little optimism for the future. But some of Khalid’s best writing comes when he has Youssef wax eloquent about whatever’s on the horizon. Even though Brother Alive is far from hopeful, wrestling with intellectual and political energies that seem to have no appropriate outlet, Youssef, and his author, maintain a sense of delirious wonder throughout. It’s a very New York quality: Every so often, the cynicism falls away and the sentiment—the affection that keeps us in this worn-out city—shines through.”—Jonah Bromwich, Atlantic

“A smooth interleaving of science-fiction with high-resolution realism and hallucinatory phantasmagoria . . . One of those books that appear only seldomly and bellow, from the first page, from the first line, that they require, beyond the valence-judgements expected of a review, earnest, laborious exploration.”—Jonah Howell, Cleveland Review of Books

“This wildly ambitious novel seeks to break new ground in big-issue territory like provenance, race, class, birth and rebirth . . . Take note of Zain Khalid’s name.”—Jane Graham, Big Issue (UK)

“One the most exciting debuts in recent years . . . Khalid’s vision can be bleak, even cynical, but it’s also remarkably cogent and underscored with a profound tenderness. It’s a love story—many times over, actually—wrapped inside a searing indictment, a rage against the many machines that would sacrifice people at the altar of capital. That Khalid executes a novel this intricate, elegant, and compassionate with such masterly prose all but guarantees that this will be one of the finest works of literature this year. Blisteringly intelligent, bursting with profound feeling, and host to some of the most complex, necessary characters in recent memory.”—Luke Gorham, Library Journal (starred review)

“In this auspicious debut, Khalid unfurls a beguiling story involving a Staten Island imam’s secrets . . . Khalid brilliantly reveals new shades of truth from each character’s point of view, and perfectly integrates the many ideas about capitalism and religious extremism into an enthralling narrative. It’s a tour de force.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Brother Alive is a rigorously intelligent, wholly sensitive, and quietly rebellious work of art, with prose as profound as it is beautiful. What an inspiring examination of the waywardness of life and the grounding of love this story is. What a wise, thoughtful writer Zain Khalid is. What a gift to humanity this book is.”—Robert Jones, Jr., New York Times-bestselling author of The Prophets

“A novel with the polish and warmth of a stone smoothed in the hand after a lifetime of loving worry—original, darkly witty, sometimes bitter, and so very wise. And certainly the debut of a major new writer.”—Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

“Zain Khalid’s imagination and talent are a marvel to behold in these pages. Brother Alive bristles with a kinetic, hypnotic energy that also manages to ask profound questions about love, faith, family, and loyalty. Hallucinatory and electrifying, Brother Alive announces the arrival of a writer with an impassioned and fearless vision.”—Maaza Mengiste, author of The Shadow King, shortlisted for the Booker Prize

“This genre-defying novel, and the intelligence, originality, and awareness of the mind that produced it, astonished me. I was reminded of Günter Grass, of Viet Thanh Nguyen. Through the consciousness of an unforgettable narrator, Youssef, Khalid begins by subtly illuminating the contours of a globalized world in which the personal is geopolitical; he ends by turning up the light and refusing to let us look away.”—Vauhini Vara, author of The Immortal King Rao

Brother Alive is a remarkable work. Zain Khalid creates an immersive world rich in compelling detail. But even more impressively, Khalid achieves a kind of resistance text against our endemic inhumanity. The thrill lies in witnessing such a cogent and powerful intellect tune in to the music of life. An inspiring reminder of the great capacity of novels.”—Sergio de la Pava, author of A Naked Singularity

Brother Alive is a hallucinatory revelation. With beautifully-written prose, characters that truly leap from the pages, and a rendering of love, both familial and romantic, that made my heart ache, Zain Khalid has announced himself as a writer the world needs to sit up and pay attention to. An exquisitely told, breathtaking, revolutionary book, I barely blinked while reading it and was bereft when I finished it.”—Kasim Ali, author of Good Intentions