- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1400041155
- ISBN-13: 978-1400041152
- Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 111 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Brother, I'm Dying Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 4, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In a single day in 2004, Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones) learns that she's pregnant and that her father, André, is dying—a stirring constellation of events that frames this Haitian immigrant family's story, rife with premature departures and painful silences. When Danticat was two, André left Haiti for the U.S., and her mother followed when Danticat was four. The author and her brother could not join their parents for eight years, during which André's brother Joseph raised them. When Danticat was nine, Joseph—a pastor and gifted orator—lost his voice to throat cancer, making their eventual separation that much harder, as he wouldn't be able to talk with the children on the phone. Both André and Joseph maintained a certain emotional distance through these transitions. Danticat writes of a Haitian adage, Â 'When you bathe other people's children, you should wash one side and leave the other side dirty.' I suppose this saying cautions those who care for other people's children not to give over their whole hearts. In the end, as Danticat prepares to lose her ailing father and give birth to her daughter, Joseph is threatened by a volatile sociopolitical clash and forced to flee Haiti. He's then detained by U.S. Customs and neglected for days. He unexpectedly dies a prisoner while loved ones await news of his release. Poignant and never sentimental, this elegant memoir recalls how a family adapted and reorganized itself over and over, enduring and succeeding to remain kindred in spite of living apart. (Sept.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine
Edwidge Danticat's father and uncle chose very different paths: the former struggled to make a new life for himself in America, while the latter remained in the homeland he paradoxically loved. In following their lives and their impact on future generations, Danticat's powerful family memoir explores how the private and the political, the past and the present, intersect. The most poignant section focuses on Joseph's tragic trip to the United States at age 81, but Danticat also tells a wider story about family and exile, the Haitian diaspora, the Duvalier regime, and post-9/11 immigration policy. Emotionally resonant and exceptionally clear-eyed, Brother, I'm Dying offers insight into a talented writer, her family history, and the injustices of the modern world.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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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. Certainly, Haitians receive shabbier treatment than almost any other ethnicity in our immigration and legal system, and, like Danticat, I find myself wondering why, and suspecting that it might be a manifestation of the worst prejudices we have not yet laid to rest.
It is true that books can be about virtuous things without being very good, but the urgency the reader feels about the book's subject owes much to the extraordinary power of the writing. If Danticat were a writer who chose subject matter of a lesser intensity, I believe that more critics would write about the sentences, the structural choices, the wise management of information in her books. That they do not is a testament to the power of the stories she chooses to tell, and her ability to get out of the way and give character and story center stage rather than the pyrotechnics of language which she is certainly capable of exhibiting.
Above all, it is the passionate pacing and extraordinary delivery in the way Edwidge relays her fondest memories, that I couldn't help but not only admire her as a writer and gifted storyteller, but as a person too. One Standing Ovation.