“You don’t look like brothers . . .”
Peace activist and cofounder of the Enough Project, John Prendergast is known as a champion of human rights in Africa.
But the not-so-public face of J.P. is the life he’s led as a Big Brother to Michael Mattocks. As a curious, driven, and emotionally wounded twenty-year-old, J.P. made the life-changing decision to form a “Big Brother/Little Brother” relationship with then seven-year-old Michael, who was living out of plastic bags and drifting from one homeless shelter to the next with his mother and siblings. Lacking a connection with his own brother and distancing himself from a disastrous relationship with his father, J.P. formed a unique bond with Michael the moment they met. Michael and J.P. became like family, with Michael and some of his siblings even living with J.P. one summer. In the years that followed, J.P. took Michael and his brothers on outings, whether it was fishing, playing basketball, patronizing cheap restaurants, or going on road trips. This friendship would continue for over twenty-five years as the two coped with varying degrees of violence, instability, and trauma in their own lives.
Told in duet, Unlikely Brothers follows Michael as he grows up on the tough streets of Washington, D.C., where as a young teenager he watched his best friend get shot, dropped out of school, and started dealing crack cocaine shortly thereafter. By sixteen, Michael had become the kingpin of his neighborhood, guns and drugs always close at hand. Meanwhile, J.P. was traveling to and from African war zones. J.P. offered Michael a refuge from the streets, never really confronting the gravity of what Michael was going through in his adolescence. In turn, Michael afforded J.P. an escape from his own turbulent personal and professional life.
As the years go by, the two swoop in and out of each other’s lives, slowly disconnecting as they disappear into their respective worlds, but making their way back to each other at a critical moment for both of them. The effect the two have on each other is extremely significant to both of their paths to redemption.
Inspirational and deeply moving, Unlikely Brothers beautifully showcases how life’s most random moments can often be the most profound.
About the Author
JOHN PRENDERGAST is a human rights activist and author. He is cofounder of the Enough Project (enoughproject.org), an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Working for the Clinton administration, he was directly involved in a number of peace processes in Africa. John helped create the Satellite Sentinel Project with George Clooney; coauthored two books with Don Cheadle; and worked on films with Ryan Gosling. He traveled to Africa with 60 Minutes for four different episodes. He has been a Big Brother since 1983.
MICHAEL MATTOCKS lived in homeless shelters as a child and began dealing drugs as a teenager. He is now a husband and father of five boys, working two jobs in order to support his family. He helps coach his sons’ football teams.
"A book like Unlikely Brothers could have been a slog. It could have been gauzy and preachy. But what John and Michael have pulled off is something as unlikely as their brotherhood—a memoir wonderfully raw and vivid that manages to tell us something new about poverty and struggle and humility and hope. You'll read this in one sitting."—Dave Eggers, author of Zeitoun and What Is the What
"Read this book, and learn more about our common humanity like I did. This inspiring story will touch your heart and have you believing we are our brother's keeper all over again."—Wes Moore, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore
"This is no ordinary memoir. It is an inspiring, important and utterly unforgettable saga. Every American should read it and any who do will be moved--moved to change and moved to act. John and Michael have opened up their innards, probing their friendship, their adventures, their disappointments and their demons so as to light a spark in all of us."—Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Problem from Hell
“Unlikely Brothers is an unlikely book, two interweaving stories filled with loss, tenderness and hope. John Prendergast’s and Michael Mattocks’ journeys - together and apart - should resonate for all of us, a searching for our place in the world, a yearning for friendship and connections.”—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here and Never a City So Real
"A fascinating account of a long-standing friendship." —Publishers Weekly
“Despite their contrasting perspectives, Prendergast and Mattocks illustrate that when it comes to the human condition, attitudes trump platitudes and actions outweigh promises.”--Booklist
"A feel-good narrative that underscores the brutal effects of poverty at home and injustice abroad."--Kirkus