Whatever the plot lines of a work of fiction, if it features siblings as important characters, various rich themes are mined. After all, siblings tend to be, along with parents, among our earliest emotional, intellectual, even spiritual influences. Lifelong behavioral patterns develop and stick because of these foremost socializing approaches. We do not get to choose our siblings as we do our friends, yet, of course, the former bonds are stronger. Shared DNA, origins, and culture ensure that sibling ties are almost always complex, complicated, loving, tense, profound, bewildering, and often, inexplicable even amongst themselves.
Blood does not always run thicker than water, but when it does, it carries along deep-rooted intricacies related to parental favoritism, power struggles, hierarchies, jealousies, rivalries, betrayals, resentments, possessiveness, duty, vendetta, loyalties, unspoken pacts, and more. The invisible skeins that keep siblings tethered to each other throughout their lives — often making them the longest-lasting family connections — can be either stifling or sheltering or, more realistically, both at the same time.
Being one of five siblings, this is an endlessly fascinating topic for me. That said, even people who have no siblings are often curious about the sibling bond.
July’s monthly column at PopMatters featured five short stories about siblings by these fine contemporary writers: Martha Bátiz, K Anis Ahmed, Jenny Zhang, Lidudumalingani, and Kseniya Melnik. While there are certainly wonderful classics by writers like D H Lawrence, Flannery O’Connor, et al, these contemporary writers have explored finer and deeper nuances of sibling relationships using singular narrative styles and voices.