Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Brother, I'm Dying

Brother, I'm Dying
Edwidge Danticat
978-1400041152, Knopf, September 2007

Edwidge Danticat has made a name for herself chronicling the lives of Haitian immigrants in the States as well as in the home country. In this autobiographical book, she writes eloquently of her own life. In 2004, she finds out she is pregnant while at the same time she gets the news that her father Andre is dying of cancer. Danticat's parents emigrated to the US on their own initially, leaving Edwidge and her younger brother in the care of Andre's brother Joseph and his wife. Danticat thus has deep and enduring ties to two sets of parents. During the duration of her pregnancy, her uncle is fighting his own battles in Haiti, targeted by the regime for his outspokenness as a pastor.

On hearing of his brother's illness, Joseph Dantica travels to United States, only to be held at the point of entry in the States when he innocently and honestly lets the immigration officials know that he is a victim of the political situation in his country, though he also states categorically that he plans to go back to his country and continue his church work. His admission of course raises red flags amidst the attending immigration officials; in post 9/11 America, anyone and everyone with a less than stellar past is fair game. Joseph becomes a victim of the heightened security situation in the States.

The author weaves her life story beautifully with those of her father and uncle - one in which birth and death, loss and gain, the personal and the political intertwine. If immigration is one of the compelling narratives of the 20th century, this book shows us the human costs of that narrative.

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