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Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
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Brother, I'm Dying (2007)

by Edwidge Danticat

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I hated having to read this book when I did because I was in the wilderness and really just wanted to go all transcendental on Northern Minnesota. This story is simply heart-breaking, but it's done very well and might have earned five stars had I read it under any other circumstances. ( )
  StefanieBrookTrout | Feb 4, 2017 |
Intelligent, thoughtful, and heartbreaking. A first-hand account of one man's ordeal, which illustrates in stark relief the way U.S. policies on immigration have combined with ignorance and systemic racism to cause untold suffering in Haitians. Danticat allows us to get to know her uncle in all his humanity and dignity before taking us step by step through his most terrible suffering and death at the hands of immigration officers. Most of this slim memoir is full of love and joy, even in the midst of the coups and day to day violence suffered by Danticat's family members in Haiti. By focusing on these deep family relationships Danticat allows us to experience the horror of what happens to Haitians in an entirely personal and visceral way that no amount of statistical analysis or big history can allow us to understand. I liked this memoir a great deal more than Danticat's fiction--it was grounded and real in a way that her fiction is not for me. ( )
  poingu | Jan 23, 2016 |
A difficult and disturbing memoir of life in Haiti through many tumultuous times. Danticat, who spent much of her childhood in the care of her Aunt and Uncle in Haiti after her parents left for America, tells the parallel stories of her father and his brother against the background of political unrest, violence, natural disasters and bureaucratic inhumanity. It must have been an incredibly hard story for her to tell, as parts of it were almost impossible for me to read, particularly the last several chapters, in which the U.S. Customs & Immigration officials come out looking no better than their Haitian counterparts. The author lived through some of the events she chronicles here, and reconstructed the rest from official records and family accounts. I admire the skill and strength it took to put this on paper; I wish I could take away a feeling that either I or the circumstances described in Brother, I'm Dying have been improved in any way by my having read it. It just made me feel bad.
Review written February 2012 ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Oct 2, 2014 |
I love Edwidge Danticat's fiction. She writes beautifully about difficult situations in her home country of Haiti and in the Haitian diaspora. But my favorite of her books is [Brother, I'm Dying], a memoir that focuses on the role of two men in her life, her father and her uncle. The book begins when Edwidge goes to visit her father in New York and learns that he is dying. On the same day, she learns that she is pregnant for the first time. This initial chapter is powerful. Although we have not come to know Edwidge or her father yet, she writes her emotions on every page.

Through flashbacks, we learn about Edwidge's childhood. Edwidge's father and mother left Haiti when she was young to go to New York. She and her younger brother Bob were raised by their Uncle Joseph and Aunt Denise. For eight years, they communicated with their father through letters and dealt with the turmoil that filled the streets of Haiti. Even after Edwidge and Bob move to New York, they stay in touch with their uncle. In a way, the bond between Edwidge's father and her Uncle Joseph is stronger because of the important role that both men play in Edwidge's life.

The story of Edwidge's childhood is fascinating, but it is the events that unfold as her father's health worsens, Uncle Joseph's Haitian neighborhood is struck by increasing violence, and Edwidge prepares to welcome a baby that make up the emotional center of this book. I turned the final pages of this book with tears running down my face. Having lost my father only a year ago, I was struck by Edwidge's ability to convey the deepest emotion in simple and straightforward language. It is a powerful book that spoke to me when I read it originally in 2008 and that was just as impactful as a re-read. ( )
  porch_reader | Oct 1, 2014 |
This is an award-winning Autobiography about Edwidge Danticat's two most important family members -- her father and her uncle, Joseph.

When Edwidge was 3 years old her father left for New York on a supposed 'visit' to relatives, but when his visitor's visa was expired he simply stayed in the country. After her sixth birthday her Mother did the same, leaving her and her younger brother, Bob, behind to be raised by her Uncle Joseph and Aunt Denise with the money that mother and father wired from the United States for their care and feeding. Bob and Edwidge lived with Joseph and Denise until they were 10 and 12.

Edwidge not only gives us the history of the lives of these two men, but writes lovingly about each of them because, although she called only one of them Daddy, the other was her father as well.

It was fascinating to read about the lives of these two men separated by many miles and each living a life with constant and unexpected dangers -- one a New York cab driver and the other a minister in Haiti with its volatile political situation. I felt privileged to learn about each of them. Recommended. ( )
  whymaggiemay | May 23, 2014 |
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To begin with death. To work my way back into life, and then, finally, to return to death. Or else: the vanity of trying to say anything about anyone.

Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude
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For the next generation of "cats": Nadira, Ezekiel, Zora, Timothy and Mira
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I found out I was pregnant the same day that my father's rapid weight loss and chronic shortness of breath were positively diagnosed as end-stage pulmonary fibrosis.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In a personal memoir, the author describes her relationships with the two men closest to her--her father and his brother, Joseph, a charismatic pastor with whom she lived after her parents emigrated from Haiti to the United States.

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