Unlikely Brothers

Unlikely Brothers Cover

By John Prendergast and Michael Mattocks


"You don't look like brothers..."


Founding Director of the Enough Project, John Prendergast is known as a champion of human rights in Africa. But the not-so-public face of JP is the life he’s led as a Big Brother to Michael Mattocks.

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About the Book

As a curious, driven, and emotionally wounded twenty-year-old, JP 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, JP formed a unique bond with Michael the moment they met.

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, JP was traveling to and from African war zones. JP 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 JP an escape from his own turbulent personal and professional life.

Inspirational and deeply moving, Unlikely Brothers beautifully showcases how life’s most random moments can often be the most profound.  

Reviews, Press, and Media

Dave Eggers

"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

O Magazine

"[T]heir friendship thrived through years of fishing trips and summer vacations in Philadelphia, but struggled when Prendergast's activism took him overseas just as Mattocks was spiraling into drug dealing, street violence, and arrests in his teens," Read more
Kimberley Hiss, O Magazine

Washington Post Logo

"After a chance meeting in a homeless shelter in 1984, an aimless 21-year-old activist and a homeless 7-year-old city kid effectively declared each other brothers for life. And then, life happened." Read more
Steve Hendrix, "Redemption through Brotherhood," Washington Post, May 15, 2011

Samantha Power

"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."
Samantha Power, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Problem from Hell

PBS Newshour

Siblings don't always have to share a mother or a father to forge a lasting bond. Human rights activist John Prendergast and "little brother" Michael Mattocks speak with Gwen Ifill about the highs and lows of their unlikely "brotherhood" and their new book. Watch now
Gwen Ifill, PBS News Hour

Wes Moore

"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

Whole Living Logo

"An idealistic college student and an impoverished boy learn together how to become the men they always wanted to be."
Recommended Book, Martha Stewart's Whole Living

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