A Haitian family, linked by love, must learn to live on separate shores
Edwidge Danticat has written a moving tribute to her father and uncle, the two men who raised her.
Novelist Edwidge Danticat grew up with two papas – her dad, Mira, who left Haiti for America when she was 2, and her Uncle Joseph, a pastor who raised Danticat and her younger brother, Bob, until they were able to join their parents in New York when she was 12.
Almost two decades later, in 2004, Joseph was forced to flee Haiti after gangs threatened to kill him. Despite the fact that he had a valid visa and a passport, the United States government imprisoned the octogenarian, who was dead within days. Earlier that year – on the same day that she discovered that she was pregnant – Danticat found out that Mira had been diagnosed with a fatal illness.
Now, Danticat has written a beautiful memoir to both her fathers. If there's such a thing as a warmhearted tragedy, Brother, I'm Dying is a stunning example. As she did in her powerful novels, such as 2004's "The Dew Breaker," Danticat uses the personal to show the impact of a whole country's legacy. But she does so in a way that avoids rage or bitterness – an amazing feat since it's not possible to even read about her uncle's treatment in US custody without a deep-burning anger. But the main characteristics of the memoir are the generosity, strength, and dignity of the two men, and the love Danticat has for both.
"Brother, I'm Dying" also encompasses
the emotional lives of both halves of a diaspora: those who leave and those who remain behind. As a child, she cherished the rare links to her parents, who were only able to make one trip to Haiti during the eight years between the time her mother left to join her father and her own trip.