Brother I'm Dying: Life in Haiti, One Breath at a Time
Edwidge Danticat's memoir weaves a tale of brotherhood and family amid Haiti's, and the United States', chaotic circumstances.
Brother I'm Dying, Knopf, September, 2007, 288 pages
Edwidge Danticat, in each of her books of fiction about Haiti, writes of stark realities—torture, civil unrest, dictatorship's burdens—from an ethereal distance. Her latest is a memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, in which her graceful writing is grounded in the most intimate of places: family. Raised by both her father and uncle, it is as much their story as it is hers. "I wrote this," she writes, "because they can't."
The book opens with impending death—her elderly father learning he has a terminal illness—and it carries that thread through the unfurling of life. "Death," she writes, "is a journey we embark on from the moment we are born." Still the story is one of lives lived courageously, if not easily. Balancing between history and present, Danticat unravels the men's hardscrabble history from her father's toiling as a tailor, a shoe salesman, and eventually a cabbie in New York City to her uncle Joseph's work as a voiceless pastor whose dedication to Haiti's salvation never waivers.