four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
user_rating: 
0

A-Brother Im DyingOne day in 2004, Edwidge Danticat discovers that she is pregnant—and that her father, André, is terminally ill. Framed by these events, Danticat’s memoir explores her family’s beleaguered history in Haiti and the United States. When she is two, her father leaves Duvalier’s bloody regime for New York. Her mother soon follows, and Danticat and her brother remain in Port-au-Prince with André’s brother Joseph, a warmhearted pastor. When she joins her parents at age 12, she leaves behind her beloved uncle and struggles to understand a family and a country she barely knows. Years later, her uncle dies as a prisoner in U.S. Customs, prompting Danticat to pull together her family’s fragmented past.
Knopf. 272 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 1400041155

New York Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Ms. Danticat not only creates an indelible portrait of her two fathers, her dad and her uncle, but in telling their stories, she gives the reader an intimate sense of the personal consequences of the Haitian diaspora: its impact on parents and children, brothers and sisters, those who stay and those who leave to begin a new life abroad. She has written a fierce, haunting book about exile and loss and family love, and how that love can survive distance and separation, loss and abandonment and somehow endure, undented and robust." Michiko Kakutani

San Diego Union-Tribune 4.5 of 5 Stars
"This memoir is her most powerful work to date, not just because it is all true, but because it all comes down to an 81-year-old clergyman, arriving in the Greatest Nation on Earth with his passport and tourist visa to see his dying brother, who lost his identity, his dignity and his life because he filled out a form incorrectly." Kate Callen

Miami Herald 4 of 5 Stars
"Past and present, personal and political entangle with a vengeance in the lives of ordinary people who become immigrants, and Danticat’s story begins, as many do, with a journey. … The tone, as always with Danticat’s fiction and nonfiction, is unsentimental." Betsy Willeford

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"While Danticat discusses her eight years away from her parents, she doesn’t retread previously visited territory. … Joseph’s story obviously speaks to the multitude of troubles that have mired Haiti since its independence." Vikas Turakhia

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"‘Anger is a wasted emotion,’ says the narrator of The Dew Breaker, her most recent novel; in telling her family’s story, she follows this dictum almost to a fault, giving us a memoir whose cleareyed prose and unflinching adherence to the facts conceal an astringent undercurrent of melancholy, a mixture of homesickness and homelessness." Jess Row

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Revisiting this ‘wondrous and terrible’ intersection of events, and roaming backward through the history of her family and her native country, Danticat struggles to fashion a cohesive narrative. … If rigor is elusive in such an intricate account … emotional clarity is abundant." Donna Rifkind

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Minus a few self-indulgent lapses, Brother, I’m Dying is eminently readable and emotionally nuanced. … Brother, I’m Dying does not find Danticat reaching quite the lyrical strains of her short-story collection Krik? Krak! or the narrative elegance of The Dewbreaker. This would be too much to ask." Richard Thompson

Critical Summary

Edwidge Danticat’s father and uncle chose very different paths: the former struggled to make a new life for himself in America, while the latter remained in the homeland he paradoxically loved. In following their lives and their impact on future generations, Danticat’s powerful family memoir explores how the private and the political, the past and the present, intersect. The most poignant section focuses on Joseph’s tragic trip to the United States at age 81, but Danticat also tells a wider story about family and exile, the Haitian diaspora, the Duvalier regime, and post-9/11 immigration policy. Emotionally resonant and exceptionally clear-eyed, Brother, I’m Dying offers insight into a talented writer, her family history, and the injustices of the modern world.