Brothers on Three follows the Montana State Champions – the Arlee Warriors – basketball team on the Flathead Indian Reservation, along with their teammates, coaches, and families, as they balance the pressures of adolescence, shoulder the dreams of their community, and chart their own individual courses for the future. And in doing so, a picture emerges of modern Indigenous life and the challenges of growing up on a reservation in contemporary America.
March 11, 2017, was a night to remember. On that night, in front of the hopeful eyes of thousands of friends, family members, and fans, the Arlee Warriors would finally bring the high school basketball state championship title home to Montana’s Flathead Indian Reservation. The game would become the stuff of legend, with the boys revered as local heroes. The team’s place in history was now cemented, but for starters Will Mesteth, Jr. and Phillip Malatare, life would keep moving on―senior year was only just beginning.
In Brothers on Three, we follow Phil and Will, along with their teammates, coaches, and families, as they balance the pressures of adolescence, shoulder the dreams of their community, and chart their own individual courses for the future. And in doing so, a picture emerges of modern Indigenous life and the challenges of growing up on a reservation in contemporary America.
Brothers on Three is not simply a story about high school basketball, about state championships and a winning team. It is a book about community, and it is about boys on the cusp of adulthood, finding their way through the intersecting worlds they inhabit and forging their own paths to personhood.
Brothers on Three is a story about much more than a high school basketball team on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana. It is a tale full of heart, hope, perseverance, family, and community.
Brothers on Three may be the first sports-centric book I have read. I was not sure about it at the start. I was hesitant to read a book about an Indigenous basketball team and community written by an outsider – a white male journalist – rather than an Own Voices author. However, the story quickly picked up once I started, and I was sucked into the fervor of Warrior’s basketball and Arlee. I cheered for them, I lost with them, and I raged against the injustice that plagued their community.
While the state champion basketball team is the underpinnings of this book, I appreciate that Streep did not focus solely on the basketball team and recognized that things do not occur in a vacuum. Instead, he looked at the players as individuals, explored the meaning of the team to the community, and highlighted the implications of being a Native basketball player. I was happy that Streep also addressed some issues the plague Indigenous people and communities in this country – trauma, racism, history, suicide, etc. While it is hard to say without being present, Brothers on Three seemed like a fair portrayal of Arlee and its people (although that is not for me to decide.)
As I began reading, I was surprised by the overly pictorial descriptions of the landscape and geography. It was not something I excepted from a journalist nor something I typically enjoy. Yet, I found Brothers on Three to be pleasant to read with clear, concise language. The people and community in this piece of nonfiction came to life through Abe Streep’s writing. I only note that there were a lot of names to keep track of and the book could have benefited from an index at the beginning to identify them. In addition, if you are unfamiliar with basketball in the slightest, some of descriptions of actual games and plays may be difficult for you to fully comprehend. But I do not think you lose anything if you do not understand the minutiae of the game.
Overall, I found Brothers on Three to be a gripping and moving book that I really enjoyed. I highly recommend it, regardless of your love for or knowledge of basketball.
Brothers on Three
Sports & Recreation
September 7, 2021
Note: Celadon Books, the publisher, gifted me an advanced readers’ copy of this book. Regardless, I always provide a fair and honest review.