Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Edwidge Danticat is a brilliant storyteller who has written a number of my favorite books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, and Krik? Krak! But I will say none are more important than her latest work, Brother, I'm Dying. Brother was recently named a finalist for the National Book Award, and Danticat spoke to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about the nomination and her experience writing the book.
Brother follows Danticat's upbringing in both Haiti and America, and deals with the deaths of Danticat's two fathers: her father's brother, who raised Edwidge in Haiti; and her real father, who came to the U.S. when Edwidge was a young girl in search of work.
The harrowing part of this memoir that will make you remember it forever:
In 2004, Danticat's uncle came to the U.S. to visit as he had numerous times before. However, on his last visit, he was without his visa and papers; they perished in the flames that engulfed his Port Au Prince neighborhood after a clash between U.N. Peacekeeping Forces and local gangs. Because he came to Miami without proper documentation, Danticat's 82 year old uncle was sent to Krome, a maximum security immigration detention center. There, he was denied access to medications he took regularly for health problems, and he was mistreated and poorly fed. Danticat was told that she could not visit her uncle, not knowing that his health was deteriorating rapidly. Less than a week after he arrived at Krome, Edwidge's beloved uncle, who had survived cancer and political instability in Haiti, was dead.
The cruelty that immigrants often face in America occurs all the time but rarely is it vocalized and given a name. Through her brilliant writing, Danticat lays claim to it; its ugliness, its racism, its brutality. I congratulate Danticat on the nomination and wish her the best.
If we don't tell our stories, no one else will.