“The Brothers” is from Lysley Tenorio’s debut collection, Monstress (HarperCollins). His stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ploughshares, Manoa, and The Best New American Voices and Pushcart Prize anthologies. He was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and he is a recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award and the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction. His website is www.lysleytenorio.com.
He had this to say about the origin of “The Brothers:” There’s a bar in San Francisco called Asia SF, which is famous for its “gender illusionists”: the transsexual and transgendered Asian-American waitresses who perform hourly atop the bar/runway, lip-syncing disco classics and power ballads. I wouldn’t call them drag queens; they don’t really possess that winking camp that lets everyone know they’re in on the act. Instead, the women of Asia SF have worked and sacrificed to turn themselves into the people they truly want to be.
On one visit, I met a Filipina-American waitress who told me about her family in the Philippines, and how they weren’t necessarily cool with how she was living her life. I was moved by her story, and immediately thought of ways to render that kind of experience in fiction, to imagine a life so defined by change. But as I worked on the story, I found myself more compelled by the opposite, by someone who utterly lacked the daring and guts to break free of the role he’s expected to play – that of the dutiful and obedient son, the one who sacrifices his own happiness to maintain the familial order.
And so “The Brothers” became the story of Edmond, a man who couldn’t even begin to imagine the difficult but ultimately fulfilling life his recently deceased transsexual brother, Eric, had the bravery to live. In this way, Eric isn’t the lonely, isolated, and tragic brother; Edmond is.
NPR Books said of the collection: “Montress is the debut of a singular talent.”