Edwidge Danticat, Dealing with Birth and Death

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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

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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

toggle 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.

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Brother, I'm Dying

by Edwidge Danticat

Hardcover, 272 pages |


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