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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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1,038778,123 (4)107
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 78 (next | show all)
I wanted to like this book more than I did. I have lots of admiration for Deo and everything that he has overcome, and I learned a lot about the history of Burundi and Rwanda. I only give it three stars because I didn't feel that engaged while I was reading it. I think that was my fault though, not the fault of the book. ( )
  klburnside | Aug 11, 2015 |
Difficulties for immigrants are abundant, but for Deogratias Niyizonkiza, a medical student who arrived in New York from the horrors of Burundi and Rwanda in the 1990s, they are magnified to what seems insurmountable heights. The situation was further complicated by language. Deo spoke French, his English learned from a phrase book. In his first job delivering groceries, he politely said "Hi" to customers and wondered why the response was strange. It wasn't until much later he discovered his French pronunciation expressed the greeting as "Hee". Kidder opened the story in New York where the reader is shocked, but has some understanding of the situation Deo faced. Then, going back to earlier events of civil war and genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, we can see why this young man struggled so hard to get his life back on track. In places Deo's story was heart-breaking beyond words, both in America and in Africa. His perseverance and diligence is inspiring. Still, Kidder omits his reason for writing Deo's story. Is this an immigrant success story or an account of the harrowing events in Burundi and Rwanda? It appears to be neither one nor the other. By combining both, the impact is significantly diminished.

This was an audiobook narrated by the author, the narration being the weakest part of the book. Unless an author has a good reading voice, it's advisable to hire a professional for the job. ( )
  VivienneR | Jul 9, 2015 |
Kidder has a real knack for bringing real life heroes to light—people who quietly go about making a difference in the world. How someone like Deo can survive the warfare in his home country of Burundi, arrive in the US, speaking only French and end up graduating from college is a story of determination and courage. Add to that his determination to go back to Burundi and make a difference in the health care system is amazing. Thank you Mr. Kidder for allowing me to meet such a remarkable world citizen ( )
  brangwinn | Mar 2, 2015 |
This is the third book by Tracy Kidder I have read, the others being Mountains Beyond Mountains (read 20 Feb 2005) and The Soul of a New Machine (read 1 Oct 2007). The title of this book is taken from words by Wordsworth in Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. It tells of Deo, who was a Burundian and had a horrific time in 1993 avoiding being killed. That account is the most exciting and best part of the book. Deo manages to escape to New York , where he arrives alone, knowing no English and no person. His time in New York seems almost as scary as his time in Burundi, but he is exceptioally lucky in that he is befriended by an ex-nun and a couple she knows. Their beneficial attention to him seems almost surreal but makes one most admratory of them. The account of Deo's trips back to Burundi I found less attention-holding. While Deo is very brainy he does do things which did not strike me as very sensible, though praiseworthy. I thought Kidder's book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, was a better book. ( )
  Schmerguls | Feb 21, 2015 |
I had no idea what this book was about, or had forgotten if I did, but I like Tracy Kidder so I may have bought it for that reason, I can't remember. I'd had it for quite a while before getting around to reading it. It was a pleasant experience. I really like stories of survival and people who excel against all odds. I also like it when random people cross someone's path and they reach out to help their fellow man out of unselfishness and love. ( )
  shesinplainview | May 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 78 (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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