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Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder
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Strength in What Remains (original 2009; edition 2009)

by Tracy Kidder

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1,107857,478 (4.02)114
Member:jrtanworth
Title:Strength in What Remains
Authors:Tracy Kidder
Info:Random House (2009), Edition: First Edition, First Printing., Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:nonfiction, current affairs, Africa, Burundi

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Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (2009)

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Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
Difficult to listen to the subject matter occasionally, but a really good book. Excellent narrator. Reminiscent of Sinclair's "The Jungle", exposing the dark underbelly of immigrants trying to make it in the USA. Highly reommend. ( )
  marshapetry | Oct 9, 2016 |
This is the remarkable story of Deo, a man who survived the horrific violence of 1993 in not only Burundi but Rwanda as well. Trying to escape the political upheaval between Tutsi and Hutu, Deo fled into Rwanda only to find infighting and ethnic cleansing there as well. Finally, with $200 to his name he was able to escape to New York City where he found work as a grocery delivery boy. Earning only $15 a day he lived in Central Park to make ends meet. It was after he delivered groceries to a nun when Deo's life drastically changed. Through her generosity Deo was able to meet a middle aged couple who essentially took him in as their own; a quasi-adoption, if you will (his parents had survived the genocide so he was not a legal orphan). They gave him a place to live but more importantly, once they found out he had been a medical student in Burundi they helped put him through school at Columbia, majoring in biochemistry and philosophy. Remarkable, considering he didn't have a green card or visa of any kind. What's even more remarkable is that Deo not only went on to become a doctor, but he found forgiveness and went back to his homeland to start a clinic.

I liked Kidder's direct, never-wavering sense of storytelling. Compared to Robert Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson, Kidder maintains a linear language and nothing is off-topic. It's as if he knows he is limited to only so many words to tell the story and he doesn't want to waste a single one on superfluous detail. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Feb 24, 2016 |
Fantastic Read! ( )
  dogear360 | Feb 20, 2016 |
This is a hard book to write about. Hmmm... genocide. But if you can stomach the descriptions, it is very important to understand the human cost. It's easy to ignore what happens a world away, in another city, the other side of town, but to enter into another's life and come to know and care about them, and experience what they have experienced, it no longer is something you can pretend you don' t know about, even when you desperately wish you didn't. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
This is a hard book to write about. Hmmm... genocide. But if you can stomach the descriptions, it is very important to understand the human cost. It's easy to ignore what happens a world away, in another city, the other side of town, but to enter into another's life and come to know and care about them, and experience what they have experienced, it no longer is something you can pretend you don' t know about, even when you desperately wish you didn't. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 86 (next | show all)
Mr. Kidder’s prose handles beautifully, but there are places it can’t take you, moral and intellectual territory that remain out of reach... I am being hard, I fear, on a book that I read with great interest.
 
63-year-old Tracy Kidder may have just written his finest work — indeed, one of the truly stunning books I’ve read this year.
 
It's hard for the reader to escape the conclusion that Deogratias can live with what happened and build his hospital and do good only by lying to himself about the nature of the recent past.

This raises the chewy problem of why Kidder is telling this story. Is it primarily an inspirational tale of an immigrant-made-good, a repudiation of Lou Dobbs-style bigotry? If so, his book succeeds 10 times over in an uncomplicated way. Or does Kidder believe primarily in the need to record accurately what happened during the darkest moments in human history?

If this is his goal, then he is—subtly, sympathetically—chiding his subject.
added by Shortride | editSlate, Johann Hari (Aug 24, 2009)
 
Once again Tracy Kidder has written about someone who cares deeply about improving health care for the poorest of the poor. Burundi is a small landlocked country in Eastern Africa bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west. Burundi is one of the ten poorest countries in the world

 
Kidder uses Deo’s experiences to deliver a very personal and harrowing account of the ethnic genocide in East Central Africa.
added by khuggard | editBooklist, Vanessa Bush
 
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Epigraph
Dedication
to Christopher Henry Kidder
First words
As we drove through southwestern Burundi, I felt as if we were being followed by the mountain called Ganza, the way a child feels followed by the moon.
Quotations
When he realized he wasn't seeing smoke anymore, he took his face away from the window and felt himself begin to relax, a long-forgotten feeling.
Deo had a lot of experience with bargaining, but the whole idea of soliciting tips was new, and, once he understood it, repugnant. His French-speaking African friend at the store explained. No one could survive in New York on fifteen dollars a day. You had to get tips. You lingered in doorways, you cleared your throat, sometimes you asked for a tip outright. But this was the same as begging, Deo thought.
"Deogratias, thanks be to God" was Latin his mother had learned in church. She had nearly died during his gestation and birth; his name was her thanksgiving.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812977610, Paperback)

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Strength in What Remains is an unlikely story about an unreasonable man. Deo was a young medical student who fled the genocidal civil war in Burundi in 1994 for the uncertainty of New York City. Against absurd odds--he arrived with little money and less English and slept in Central Park while delivering groceries for starvation wages--his own ambition and a few kind New Yorkers led him to Columbia University and, beyond that, to medical school and American citizenship. That his rise followed a familiar immigrant's path to success doesn't make it any less remarkable, but what gives Deo's story its particular power is that becoming an American citizen did not erase his connection to Burundi, in either his memory or his dreams for the future. Writing with the same modest but dogged empathy that made his recent Mountains Beyond Mountains (about Deo's colleague and mentor, Dr. Paul Farmer) a modern classic, Tracy Kidder follows Deo back to Burundi, where he recalls the horrors of his narrow escape from the war and begins to build a medical clinic where none had been before. Deo's terrible journey makes his story a hard one to tell; his tirelessly hopeful but clear-eyed efforts make it a gripping and inspiring one to read. --Tom Nissley

Amazon Exclusive: Tracy Kidder on Strength in What Remains

Strength in What Remains is the story of Deogratias, a young man from the central African nation of Burundi. In 1993, through no fault of his own, he was forced onto a terrifying journey, a journey that split his life in two. First he made a six-months-long escape, on foot, from ethnic violence in Burundi and from genocide in Rwanda. Then, in a strange twist of fate, he was, as it were, transported to New York City, where it sometimes seemed that his travails had only just begun.

I met Deo by chance 6 years ago. When I first heard his story, I had one simple thought: I would not have survived. I hoped in part to reproduce that feeling as I retold his story. I also hoped to humanize what, to most westerners anyway, is a mysterious, little-known part of the world. We hear about mass slaughter in distant countries and we imagine that murder and mayhem define those locales. Deo’s story opens up one of those places into a comprehensible landscape—and also opens up a part of New York that is designed to be invisible, the service entrances of the upper East Side, the camping sites that homeless people use in Central Park. But above all, I think, this is a book about coming to terms with memories. How can a person deal with memories like Deo’s, tormenting memories, memories with a distinctly ungovernable quality?

In the first part of Strength In What Remains, I recount Deo’s story. In the second part, I tell about going back with him to the stations of his life, in New York and Burundi. So the story that I tell isn’t only about the memories that Deo related to me. It’s also about seeing him overtaken by memories—again and again, and sometimes acutely. But Deo didn’t take me to Burundi just to show me around. Giving me a tour of his past was incidental to what he was up to in the present and the future. His story has a denoument that even now amazes me.

Deo is an American citizen. He doesn’t have to go back to Burundi. But he has returned continually and keeps on returning, and, amid the postwar wreckage, with the help of friends and family, he has created a clinic and public health system, free to those who can’t pay, in a rural village—part of a beginning, Deo dreams, of a new Burundi.

This facility was a pile of rocks when I visited the site in the summer of 2006. By the fall of 2008, it had become a medical center with several new buildings, a trained professional staff, and a fully stocked pharmacy. In its first year of operation it treated 21,000 different patients. (The organization that Deo founded and that sponsors and operates this facility is called Village Health Works.)

Deo was very young when he went through his long travail. Several strangers helped to save him from death and despair in Burundi and New York. So did sheer courage and pluck, and also Columbia University, which he attended as an undergraduate. But when it’s come to dealing with the burden of his memories, the public health system and clinic that he founded has been the nearest thing to a solution. In the end, it’s neither forgetting the past nor dwelling on the past that has worked for him. For him the answer has been remembering and acting. I once asked Deo why he had studied philosophy at Columbia. He told me, "I wanted to understand what had happened to me." In the end, he received what most students of philosophy receive—not answers, but more questions. As I was trying to describe his effort to build a clinic, I found myself writing: "Deo had discovered a way to quiet the questions he’d been asking at Columbia. That is, he saw there might be an answer for what troubled him most about the world, an answer that lay in his hands, indeed in his memory. You had to do something."—Tracy Kidder

(Photo © Gabriel Amadeus Cooney)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder returns with the extraordinary true story of Deo, a young man who arrives in America from Burundi in search of a new life. After surviving a civil war and genocide, he ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores until he begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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