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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Brother, I'm Dying

Brother, I'm Dying - Edwidge Danticat The author grabbed my attention with the first sentence:
"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."
This sentence let me know that the book was going to be about life, death and family relationships. It's also about the immigrant experience, Haitian political violence and cruel actions of ICE*.
*Immigration and Customs Enforcement

I was emotionally drawn into the story, and soon I became concerned for the family's welfare. The book is a combination personal memoir and biography of her uncle and father. The uncle stayed in Haiti and for a number of years served in the role of the author's father. Through the uncle's story we learn about the Haitian experience. The author at age 12 was reunited with her father living in New York, and through his story we learn about the immigrant experience. During the period of the author's pregnancy ... the uncle dies under tragic circumstances and her father is terminally ill, and then her father dies soon after the birth of the author's daughter.

This book is a tender look at the experience of immigrants and how immigration policies can be so cruel. It truly conveys the other side of the harsh treatment given to Haitians who fled the impossible political violence of 2004 when Aristide was forced into exile and UN peacekeepers were sent to Haiti.
The following review is from PageADay's Book Lover's Calendar for 9/9/12:
As the praise attests, this National Book Critics Circle Award winner doesn’t come up short: “If Brother, I’m Dying does not break your heart, you don’t have one” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). “Heartwrenching, intimate” (San Francisco Chronicle), Edwidge Danticat’s memoir of Haiti and her family is deeply personal, but it also illuminates the broader landscape of a tragic country and the failures of American foreign policy. Danticat fled to join her parents in Brooklyn when she was 12. When her beloved uncle, who raised her, tries to follow after 9/11, he finds he waited too long. If you want to read a family story of exquisite love and longing, choose this.
BROTHER, I’M DYING, by Edwidge Danticat (Vintage, 2008)