Award-winning Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat MFA’93 read from her latest work, the poignant memoir “Brother, I’m Dying,” Tuesday evening at Salomon 101 in an event co-sponsored by Africana Studies and the Literary Arts Program.
Danticat, who obtained her masters from Brown in Literary Arts, has been hailed one of “20 People in their Twenties Who Will Make a Difference” in Harper’s Bazaar, one of “30 Under 30 Creative People to Watch” in New York Times Magazine and one of the “15 Gutsiest Women of the Year” in Jane Magazine. Her first book, “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” was named Book of the Month by Oprah’s Book Club in 1998.
In “Brother, I’m Dying,” Danticat recounts the slow death of her Haitian immigrant father in New York during the time she was about to give birth to her first child. In the same year, her uncle Joseph, seeking asylum from violence in Haiti, is detained in Florida and eventually perishes in the shackles of the Department of Homeland Security.
Danticat arrived early to her event and cast animated glances as audience members gathered in the auditorium. “It’s been interesting to come back. It’s like a flashback. It’s wonderful to be here,” she said.
Danticat read an excerpt from her memoir describing her uncle’s encounter with Homeland Security, during which he used a voice box to help him speak and was on several medications. Danticat’s graphic account of the neglect toward her uncle’s medical conditions drew several assenting and sympathetic reactions from the audience.
Danticat also described one of her uncle’s government forms, in which officials based asylum decisions on the existence of congressional or media interest in that particular refugee.”This is hoping there will be congressional or media interest in everyone,” she said.
Her memoir is meant to serve as a medium for understanding, Danticat said. “I hope that it’s art, but also an act of documentation for families like mine.”
“I don’t see this memoir in the sense of ‘me’-moir,” she said. “It’s more of an ‘us’-moir.”