Edwidge Danticat, Dealing with Birth and Death

Read an Excerpt

Haitian-born writer Edwidge Danticat's memoir Brother, I'm Dying details the complicated emotions surrounding the deaths of her father and uncle — and the birth of her daughter — all in the same year.

Danticat's uncle raised her in Haiti until age 12, when she moved to New York to live with her immigrant parents.

Danticat is the author of a number of novels, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, as well as the short-story collection Krik? Krak!.

Haitian Immigrant's Memoir Honors Two Fathers

Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat's moving family memoir centers around the men closest to her — her father, Mira, and his older brother, Joseph. Nancy Crampton hide caption

itoggle caption Nancy Crampton

When Edwidge Danticat's parents left Haiti for a better life in the United States, she stayed in Haiti with her uncle Joseph, who eventually became like her "second father."

Joseph, whose remarkable life is at the heart of Danticat's new memoir, Brother, I'm Dying, was a Baptist minister who founded his own church and school in Port-au-Prince. A survivor of throat cancer, he used a mechanical voice box to communicate.

But at 81, he fled Haiti for Miami after a battle between United Nations peacekeepers and chimeres — gang members — put his life in danger. Joseph thinks he will be safe there, but instead his tragic stay in U.S. customs makes headlines around the world.

Danticat's memoir of her family tells the tale of two brothers — Joseph and Danticat's father, Mira — who, separated by distance, become like two fathers for Danticat. Her story weaves in rich details of growing up in Haiti, the sacrifices her family makes as immigrants in the United States and Haiti's growing political instability.

In a startling intersection of events, Danticat loses the two men she loves as she prepares for the birth of her daughter.

Danticat spoke with Jacki Lyden about her loving tribute to her father and her uncle.

Books Featured In This Story

Brother, I'm Dying

by Edwidge Danticat

Hardcover, 272 pages | purchase

Purchase Featured Book

Title
Brother, I'm Dying
Author
Edwidge Danticat

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.