We have another Liminal teaser for you! Our prose editor, Kyla Jamieson, shares an excerpt of Kia Miakka Natisse’s moving nonfiction piece, “I Have a Brother Named Jamaal,” which is about growing up alongside her autistic brother. Read the full story in the forthcoming Fall issue (56.1), available for purchase at the start of November 2017. If you don’t yet have a subscription to PRISM, you can purchase one today at our web store!
I Have a Brother Named Jamaal
Kia Miakka Natisse
I’d worry about how to explain it to my friends, before a playdate at my house. I’d have to explain the random outbursts of hollers and yells, the arbitrary sprints through a hallway, and, god forbid, the tantrums.
“He has autism. It’s like, he looks normal, he doesn’t talk.”
I wasn’t ashamed of my brother, but I braced myself for ignorance, little girl faces twisted in confusion and disgust.
Meanwhile I prayed that God would unlock my brother’s voice.
I had read a book once that I found in the home office. It was about autism, and had an anecdote about a mute girl who fell asleep under a tree and woke up with complete language ability.
Or at least that’s how I remembered it.
I prayed my brother would talk with a fervent faith, a request recited in every prayer. I set an imaginary deadline of sixteen. Surely by age sixteen my brother would be talking.
I even wrote an essay about my one wish, for entry to a magnet school in Buffalo. I wrote I wished that my brother could talk. I wrote it for my parents, because it was the right thing to do, because I figured any worthwhile wish should go to my brother. He was the obvious candidate.
My brother is twenty-nine now and speaks even less.
He is being sedated daily, tiny little half pills that keep him from running, jumping and yelling, and generally behaving erratically. It’s not safe for a twenty-nine-year-old black man to run and yell in public. A cop might kill him.
I tried not to judge my parents harshly when Jamaal started being tuned with medication.
A little bit more of this, a little bit less of that.
He gained nearly twenty pounds swiftly, solid on his athletic build, not fat.
But not energetic either.
We don’t worry about tantrums anymore.
Kia Miakka Natisse studied journalism at Howard University, where she earned her BA, and went on to get her Master’s in transmedia studies from NYU. Now based in Chicago, Illinois, she self-publishes text-based works through her website. She was recently part of a group show titled “Front & Center” at the Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago and is working on completing a chapbook titled American.