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Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti in 1969 and came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She graduated from Barnard College and received an M.F.A. from Brown University. She made an auspicious debut with her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and followed it with the story collection Krik? Krak!, whose National Book Award nomination made Danticat the youngest nominee ever. She lives in New York.
Edwidge tells the story of a modern Haitian family, her family, with great love and courage. In addition to Edwidge's family's personal events, the year 2004 was a year of great sadness and emotion for Haiti and Haitians. It was a year that was to be the celebration of the country's 200th. birthday. Haitians were full of anger at the political situation and sadness at their inability to celebrate one of the major reasons for Haitian pride, our great history. There were also terrible natural disasters, floods that killed more people than 9/11 did. It was a sad year and Edwidge was having her first baby. While it is often said that Haitians in the US are not political refugees but economic refugees, this book shows us that family life is tied to political life. And in the face of the political and economic situation, some make the choice to emigrate at any cost as Edwidge's biological father did, and some make the choice of serving their community in Haiti as Edwidge's surrogate father and uncle did. Each man expresses love for the family in his own way either as a provider of financial support or a provider of every day love. Uncle Joseph stayed in Haiti as long as he could. When the day came that his own home was destroyed and his life was directly threatened, he decided to go to the US with no return date. That's how he encountered his death: a family man alone in a foreign hospital, shackled, voiceless, and abandoned, because he made the mistake of asking for political asylum. For most Americans this story will be an introduction to a type of life common to many Haitians, a life of dedication to family and of cultural transitions. Edwidge's family is a hybrid of true Haitians and true Americans. As Americans they believed in respect for national institutions.Read more ›
So far, this is my favorite book by Danticat (I've read them all). It drew me in completely. And although I knew from the title that at least one life would be lost by the close of the book, I was unable to stop reading.I kept thinking that her father and uncle, not to mention the rest of her family must be very proud of her for writing such a beautiful eulogy. I also believe that the Haitian people who live with this suffering are also glad. Good work, Edwidge.
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Like Bill Maher says, if you're not embarrassed being an American these days, then you must be dead. Edwidge Danticat's memoir BROTHER, I'M DYING, this year's National Book Award finalist, never points a "shame on you" finger at anyone. But once you've digested the dramatic, poignant and unsentimental experiences of her beautiful book, you will be ashamed and disgusted by America's kneejerk reactions to the many people who flock to this nation thinking it is still the land of opportunity.
Edwidge's parents left her native Haiti when she was four years old, for the America of old where they might escape the oppressive strictures of the Duvalier government and make their way in a world of freedom and opportunity. Her parents left her and her brother in the care of her uncle Joseph, a man who profoundly affected the person she grew up to be. She calls him the man who "knew all the verses for love." (Who wouldn't want such an epitaph?) Until she was 12, he and his family guided her as one of their own. As an enthusiastic pastor, he made moral lessons sing for her and was able to encourage her interests in nursing as well as writing. At the age of 12, however, her parents called her to New York, where she was reunited with her younger siblings and the father she had barely known before.
Leaving behind Joseph and her colorful extended family was exceedingly difficult and emotional for her. In fact, once she left, Joseph was stricken with an illness that kept him from speaking --- so Edwidge and her brother who had lived with him could not even talk to him by phone. She concentrated instead on her studies while fearing more and more each day the deteriorating political system in her homeland.Read more ›
Edwidge Danticat is possibly the best American fiction writer of the younger generation. Her novels and story collections have cut a broad swath through the history of 20th century Haiti and the Haitian diaspora. Their virtues include lyric and narrative pleasures, a plainspoken and elegant voice, intelligence and intelligibility, and the bridging of two cultures separated by language and mutual misunderstanding.
With Brother, I'm Dying, Danticat expands upon the gift for nonfiction she first demonstrated in her book about carnival in Jacmel. This time, she tackles memoir by way of family history, a private story that stands in for hundreds of thousands of other private stories and has deep public policy implications. Through the Dantica and Danticat families, we get an up-close-and-personal look at the terrors of Haitian history from Papa Doc to the present, alongside the beauties of place and people too often underexplored in newspaper accounts of Haiti.
The book's velocity increases toward the end, when Danticat's uncle is run out of Port-au-Prince by street gangs, only to encounter the surprisingly deadlier American immigration system. This part of the story is the most deeply felt section of a deeply felt book, and the reader wants to scream with outrage and the indignities Danticat's uncle suffers, and especially at the unwillingness of the immigration authorities to respond humanely to his illness, his difficulties in communicating, or his family's quite reasonable requests that he receive proper medical and legal attention.
I find myself grieving now, after finishing this book, and I want to know what I can do to make my country more compassionate.Read more ›
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