Before reading this memoir I had found the novels I had read by Danticat, shocking, painfully shocking and painfully sad. I decided that I was not so much a fan of her work because they were too potent in their delivery of love, loss and survival. It was just too real!
I had always seen reading as an escape -usually from things I could not come to terms with, that were often in some way traumatic. I think that is why I got into reading romance novels. They had nothing to do with reality – at least my reality – and though I knew these depictions were rubbish, they were entertaining, you always knew it would end good for the ones who were painted as the good ones, the good but damaged ones, and finally that you could withdraw at any point you felt like cause, hey, it was not real. Reality is a lot harder to digest man.
So I read Krik? Krak! and Breath, Eyes, Memory and though they were compelling and very engaging, I found I just could not deal with the sadness and the terror that were evoked in me. A great deal of this terror was knowing that just like these characters, I could suffer, that I was vulnerable to the whims and wishes of people in this world who seemed to have so much unwarranted power. It reminded me to my core that you cannot construct a life on the fantasy of never experiencing deep and sometimes all consuming loss. I was shook. So I decided not to delve deeper into the oeuvre of Ms. Danticat.
Until I had to…
So, after a few years of recovery from my encounter with that kind of reality, I had to once again approach the works of Danticat, and being older and wiser I thought I was ready. Brother I’m Dying– a memoir – is a personal family account and I figured that since no family is perfect , ” this wont be so bad”. Well their was an unease throughout the story as I read about the nuances of a family and people caught between their dreams desires, resilience and unfavorable happenstance. Until I reached Alien 27041999. From here I became a watering pot. If the water in the Caribbean basin had suddenly gone dry in that moment I would have been able to fill it. Man I cried until my throat hurt, till my eyes burned and at one point I wondered if I would ever stop. I cried for a man I never knew but who deserved so much more dignity and consideration than was given to him. I cried for the double loss of two men reduced to many kinds of diseases both natural and man-made; I cried for the injustice of their circumstances. I cried for them, I cried for all those I had lost to know what real loss really means – I was innocent once. I cried for how vulnerable we truly are but don’t know or won’t acknowledge it. I cried all the way to the end.
I went to bed and slept then woke up thinking about how unfair Joseph Dantica was treated. And when I closed my eyes I saw the decapitated head, the bodies having been denied burial lying in the street. And I could not sleep. So much injustice in this world with no way to sweep it out.
I have to read it once more to see what I missed and what I could not see clearly. But I have to prepare myself and get a cry cloth. Maybe next time the experience wont be so jumbled…