Book Tour is a Web feature and podcast. Each week, we present leading authors of fiction and nonfiction as they read from and discuss their work.
In her new book, Haitian-born novelist Edwidge Danticat lends her storytelling gifts to the headline-making drama of her own family. Brother, I'm Dying is about "a triad of events" that unfolded between the summer of 2004 and the spring of 2005.
On the same day that her father was diagnosed with an incurable pulmonary disease, Danticat learned she was pregnant. Shortly thereafter, the uncle who helped raise her died in the custody of Homeland Security officials in Miami. He had fled Haiti just days earlier to seek asylum in America.
Danticat published her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory in 1994. The book quickly established her literary reputation; critics praised the young author's "ambitious" writing and "clarity of vision." The tale of a Haitian immigrant girl got its second wind four years later when Oprah chose it for her book club.
Danticat's subsequent works have confirmed her gift for "poetic prose" and marked her as a regular on the awards circuit. Her 1995 collection of stories, Krik? Krak!, was a National Book Award finalist. The Farming of Bones was an American Book Award winner in 1999. Her novel The Dew Breaker, about a Haitian torturer who lives among his victims as a barber in New York, was a PEN/Faulkner finalist in 2005.
Danticat, who first recounted the circumstances of her uncle's death in op-ed pieces that ran in the New York Times and other publications, says that Brother, I'm Dying is less of a "me-moir" than an "us-moir." The book "is an act of documentation ... not just for my family but for families like mine. What's exceptional about my uncle's death is how unexceptional it is."
This reading of Brother, I'm Dying took place in September of 2007 at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C.