I'm very proud of my big brother.
This was us a good while ago, more hair, less fat, less wisdom. Actually, Jesse has been playing soccer like a madman and surfing so much I think he's back to his Junior High weight. Me, I'm sporting the Chris Farley look. I guess that's what happens when you jack up your knee living in the lower forty-eight and work for yourself. Can't afford surgery, can't do any sports at all, or exercise much. So you get fat. Enjoy the rush of chronic pain. It's going on six years or so now. Then you marry a Canadian, move to Canada and voila, horrible, horrible free and excellent health care. Amazing. The same country getting criticized by the ignorant right now about their communist health care might just be my salvation from being chubby. And pain. Cool.
But I digress.
That's the cover of my big brother's new awesome picture book, called I and I.
This post is really about my brother Jesse and how he just had an incredible interview with the School Library Journal that I would encourage everybody to check out.
For any skeptical about Jesse's passion against injustice, I have a couple stories for you. Completely unapproved by said older brother too.
When I was a young boy I used to have nightmares about the KKK coming and leaving burning crosses on our front yard. It's true. Which is weird on a few levels because I'm a white boy, white family, and we lived in gold rush country in Northern California, between Yosemite and Lake Tahoe. You wouldn't think I'd have to worry much, or even know much about the Klan. But I was pretty sure they were going to come for my brother.
Why would a young boy worry about such a thing? Well, read the interview and you'll get a much better picture. Before Murphys, we lived in Pasadena, California, where I was born. Jesse's best friend there was African American. And our grandma was a member and activist for the United Nations and a devout feminist. Side note: when we'd bring girlfriends to meet her she'd grill them about their ambitions and views. Thanks grandma.
When Jesse was in Junior High School or High School (forget which) our family watched Cry Freedom, probably prompted by Jess. After the movie was over, Jesse was so mad at the injustice he kicked a whole in the drywall with his Doc Marten combat boots (all the rage). I was impressed and still am. That's passion.
In high school, Jesse was arrested (yeah, you heard me) with his friend because a hotel in Angel's Camp (where our hs was) refused service to a black reporter from the Sacramento Bee and so Jesse J and friend posted signs and picketed out front, just the two of them. Small town cops don't like that kind of thing. Arrested him, threatened him. Read the interview. That's why I dreamed about burning crosses.
When I was in junior high and Jesse (four years older) in high school, our family went on a trip to the Middle East and Europe for two months, one month per. My dad was illustrating a picture book for Ruth Graham, Billy Graham's wife and they sent him to research it. While in Israel we saw both sides of the deep conflict. I think Jesse, being older and more inclined, was deeply affected by some of the camps we saw that the Palestinians were forced to live in. This was around 1988 I believe. We met many Jews, Muslims and Christians and heard so many stories. Our Palestinian guide, Elias, was a personal friend of Billy Graham. He was one of the original boys who found the Dead Sea Scrolls. A respected and honored man. Yet, as an old man he was told by a soldier to pick up rocks and refused, so beaten severely.
I have always looked up to my older brother for many reasons. His lifelong passion for justice and his courage to speak up despite consequences or fear is one part of him that I especially admire. I hope you go read this article and find out more about this great guy and passionate artist.