Edwidge Danticat, whose book “Brother, I’m Dying” is the focus of the community-wide Big Read Holland Area this year, will deliver the program’s keynote address on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. in Dimnent Memorial Chapel at Hope College.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
The event is co-sponsored by the Big Read Holland Area and the college’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series.
“Brother, I’m Dying” tells the true story of the author’s uncle and father as they work to build a future for themselves and their families—one brother in Haiti and the other in America. Published in 2007, “Brother, I’m Dying” received the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Danticat’s parents immigrated to the United States from Haiti when she was two. She initially stayed in Haiti, where she was raised by her Uncle Joseph and his wife Tante Denise in the Bel Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince until she was able to join her parents when she was twelve-years-old.
As described by the reader’s guide provided by neabigread.org, when “Brother, I’m Dying” opens, “the author is a grown woman living in Miami who learns, over the course of a single day, that her father is dying and that she is pregnant with her first child. Just weeks later, her beloved Uncle Joseph seeks asylum in the U.S. and experiences brutal treatment. Told through Danticat’s singular voice, these events set the stage for a powerful tale of loss and remembrance.”
Danticat is the author of multiple other books and collections, as well as short works. Her books include “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” the short-story collection “Krik? Krak!,” “The Farming of Bones,” and the illustrated children’s book “Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation.”
Her awards include a Pushcart Prize for short fiction and an American Book Award, and she has twice been nominated for the National Book Award. Granta named her one of the Best of American Novelists, and her books have been selected for Oprah’s Book Club. In 2009 Danticat received a MacArthur Genius Grant.
She is a graduate of Barnard College, from which she received her B.A. in French literature. She also holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Brown University.
The Big Read Holland Area, developed around the theme “An entire community reading one book together,” is funded through a grant to the college through the Big Read initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest. The Big Read initiative is designed to revitalize the role of reading in American culture by exposing citizens to great works of literature and encouraging them to read for pleasure. Hope had also received grants for programs in 2014 and 2015.
The Big Read Holland Area is directed by Dr. Deborah Van Duinen, assistant professor of English education at Hope. Area partners with the college include Herrick District Library, Howard Miller Library, Western Theological Seminary, Holland Museum, cultureWorks, Future PREP’d Ottawa Area Intermediate School District and several other area schools, churches, businesses and other community organizations.
This year’s Big Read Holland Area has featured a variety of public events since beginning on Tues., Nov. 1, in addition to including book discussions hosted by multiple community organizations. Earlier in the day on Nov. 15, Danticat will also reflect on the writing of “Brother, I’m Dying,” on her family and on her work during a question-and-answer event at Hope that is for students involved in The Big Read Holland Area in their local high school or college classes.
The closing event in this year’s Big Read Holland Area will take place on Thursday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Holland Armory and is open to the public. The open-house-style event will showcase hundreds of area students’ artwork created in response to “Brother, I’m Dying” as well as collaborative projects by the two Big Read Holland Area artists-in-residence, Joel Schoon-Tanis and Barry Elz. The exhibition will also be open to the public on Fri.-Wed., Nov. 18-23, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
More information about the Big Read Holland Area events and the book, including a complete schedule with street addresses and a list of all partner organizations, is available online through the following locations: blogs.hope.edu/thebigread/, facebook.com/bigreadholland/ and twitter.com/bigreadholland.
More information about the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series is available at hope.edu/arts/jack-ridl-visiting-writers-series/.