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Article

Brother, I'm Dying

Posted on

Brother, I'm Dying

type:
Book
Current Status:
In Season
author:
Edwidge Danticat
publisher:
Knopf
genre:
Memoir, Nonfiction

We gave it a B+

”I found out I was pregnant the same day that my father’s rapid weight loss and chronic shortness of breath were positively diagnosed as end-stage pulmonary fibrosis,” begins Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat in Brother, I’m Dying, her delicate and thoughtful memoir of family and grief. The year was 2004, and Danticat found herself in the awkward position of looking ”forward and back, in both celebration and despair.”

Danticat’s account of her stoic immigrant father’s decline — even as he gasped for breath he said his health was ”not so bad” — brims with tenderness. So, too, does her tribute to her uncle Joseph, a charismatic preacher who raised her in Haiti for almost a decade after her parents emigrated from the island in the 1970s. (Danticat rejoined her family in Brooklyn when she was 12.)

As her elderly father weakened, political turmoil forced Joseph, now a frail octogenarian, to flee Haiti himself. His harrowing attempt to find sanctuary in the U.S. makes a stand-alone horror story, and adds unexpected drama and tragedy to the book’s final chapters. Danticat’s memoir lacks the verbal precision and intense focus of the best books about loss, like Joan Didion’s peerless The Year of Magical Thinking. But she offers here one more invaluable portrait of how people love, and struggle to let go, with grace. B+