In workplaces across America, gender and racial lines are becoming more blurred as women and minorities move up to higher rungs of the corporate ladder. With this increase comes a new form of workplace ethics. It becomes a harder task of knowing the right thing to say and the correct way to conduct oneself in an effort to create a comfortable and non-offensive work environment. There is a fine line between flirting and sexual harassment or a racially tinged joke and bigotry. How can a friendship survive the racial barriers planted in the workplace and society?
The setting of “Brothers and Sisters” takes place during a time when Los Angeles was cooling down from the racially charged riots perpetrated by the Rodney King verdict. “Brothers and Sisters” also raises issues that jump off the page, providing a breath of fresh air.
The book’s main character, Esther Jackson is a highly motivated and educated African American woman struggling to climb the corporate ladder at Angel Bank, constantly on the lookout for “Mr. Right.”
Mallory Post, who’s Caucasian, tries to find the inner strength to break off a relationship with a married man and heal emotional wounds from her childhood. Esther and Mallory develop a close friendship that becomes strained when the handsome, successful and powerful Humphrey Boone is hired at Angel Bank. Boone, who’s African American holds an executive vice-president position at Angel Bank, benefiting from affirmative action.
Because of affirmative action Boone makes fast enemies, but develops a friendship with Esther and a crush on Mallory. Humphrey’s crush becomes more intense. He begins to make sexually suggestive comments and actions toward Mallory. Esther becomes bitter towards Mallory because she can’t understand why he’s showing more interest towards a Caucasian woman rather than her, an African American woman. What the reader has to figure out is whether this situation destroys their friendship or makes it stronger in the end.
The story line provides insight from characters that come from all walks of life. “Brothers and Sisters” acts as a magnifying glass, closely scrutinizing how relationships and attitudes amongst all human beings can affect every individual on a personal level. This novel is recommended for people from all races and both genders. “Brothers and Sisters” is also a “melting pot,” meaning issues such as affirmative action, sexual harassment, self-esteem and class struggles are placed front and center. Campbell’s novel is insightful, yet funny and entertaining.