Saturday, March 14, 2009

Our March Author: Edwidge Danticat

Brother, I'm Dying (Vintage Contemporaries)Let's start with a little excerpt from a 60 Minutes interview with Edwidge Danticat about her uncle's asylum case, detailed in our March book, Brother, I'm Dying.


Watch CBS Videos Online

Once you get past the obnoxious audio ad, this Washington Post slideshow, 'Faking Symptoms' -- An Asylum Seeker's Ordeal, is also a worthy visual companion to the book.

There is no shortage of interviews and one can never go wrong with NPR's Terry Gross. Even better there is this exposé of detainee medical abuse The Death of Richard Rust which also explores the Dantica case and the report Homeland Security made as followup- "a whitewash."

National Book Foundation interview,
JG: What was the hardest part of your book to write - and why was it so challenging?
ED: The hardest part was reading the government documents involved in my uncle's death.
Every encounter he had with a government official seemed so unfriendly, so distant, so cold. You have a feeling that no one was responding to him as a person, as a human being.
Democracy Now! in the wake of Danticat's testimony before a congressional committee explores the book but also draws the author out on other human rights concerns,

ED: Amy, there are actually two films now that are out on this subject that are extraordinary. One is The Price of Sugar, and one is a film called Sugar Babies that I narrate that deals with these issues. I think it’s powerful what these protesters were saying, the focus that—to focus some of the heat also on the sugar industry and the United States and the fact that actually in one of the documentaries, one of the sugar barons who actually functions here in Florida and has had a conflict with migrant labor in Florida and that are still unresolved, you know, with lack of pay—the same issues that you have with some of these bateys in the Dominican Republic. And he says something like, you know, one out of—you know, half of the sugar—he’s in every cereal box, or something to that effect, that we consume his sugar in the United States, and people may not realize that there are some subsidies that are provided to these sugar-producing families in the Dominican Republic to produce the sugar that we use here in the United States. So these issues, certainly they’re connected, the issues of migration and the fact that these children are “in transit” for their entire lives. People who have been in the Dominican Republic for fifty, sixty years are considered “in transit.” These issues and the conditions in the bateys are very important. But also it’s important for people who live here to realize, you know, it’s not disconnected from you, because this is supported by the sugar we consume here in the United States.
Foreign Policy In Focus asks Danticat what she would like to see from Obama,
Miller: What should the next president of the United States do to improve conditions with (and within) Haiti?
Danticat: I think he or she should support the leader the Haitian people have chosen for themselves and not impose U.S. choices on the people. Haiti is a very close neighbor and should not be neglected.. Aid should be given toward building infrastructure and long-term institutions so that every couple of years there is not a forced regime change that requires putting out more fires.
In lieu of an author's website, good places to explore are this compilation of NYT articles and reviews and The New Yorker has more memoir and fiction by the author online. UCSB has a wide-ranging interview and lecture here available on YouTube, probably of more interest to those who have read her fiction in addition to Brother. Danticat weighs in on the efficacy of torture, "Does It Work?" in the Washington Post.

Amnesty International details current concerns for refugees and asylum seekers here. The Dantica case has mostly disappeared from the website but here is an AIUSA statement submitted to a U.S. Senate investigating committee.

Finally, UNICEF brings a happier story out of Bel Air.
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