The Case Against My Brother
Bancroft, Nov 2007, 224pp.
In 1922 recently orphaned Polish Catholics teen brothers Carl and Adam Matuski move from Baltimore to live with their impoverished uncle in Portland, Oregon. Still grieving the death of their mother, the boys worry about the anti-immigrant campaign to push the Oregon School Law that would outlaw Catholic schools.
The affluent parents of Adam’s girlfriend accuse him of stealing jewelry from them. Carl believes his older brother is innocent and recommends he hides rather than go to jail while Carl, whose plate is full with school and two jobs, investigates. The neighborhood police officer Miller thinks Catholics but especially Polish Catholics are thieves. He tries to trip up Carl as to the whereabouts of Adam, whose behavior worries his younger brother. Carl’s inquiries lead to his witnessing a murder with the killer wanting the teen dead too.
This is a superb young adult historical mystery that brings to life an interesting era in which local prejudice using de jure discrimination attacks a particular religion especially those worshippers from a specific nationality. Miller has ethically profiled Catholic Polish-Americans deep in his brain so he also represents a de facto form of discrimination. However, the insightful exciting story line is owned by the fifteen year old hero who tries to prove his older brother’s innocence, but as Carl crashes up against bias, he also begins to wonder if Adam stole the jewels. Libby Sternberg writes a terrific tale that hopefully will lead to sequels.