Scratch-made border cuisine and two happy hours a day backed by more than 100 tequilas—we’re feeling the Latin love. Here’s why.
This year’s Fort Collins Reads book is Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat, which chronicles her life growing up in a family separated by immigration, desperation and hope. We caught up with her before her visit and reading on November 6.
Your book is part memoir, part social criticism. What has changed for you—and your mother country of Haiti—since publication?
The book was published in 2007. My mother has since died. I’ve had another daughter. There was a massive earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and my cousin Maxo, who I talk about in the book, died in that earthquake along with one of his sons.
How would your family’s immigration experience be different today from the way it was described in the book?
Sadly, things have not changed at all. Deportations are being stepped up, not just of criminals but also mothers and children, from Central America, especially. Haitians still find themselves on the other end of a very racist, discriminatory system. People are also still dying in detention centers for lack of decent health care. Immigration prisons are privatized and are in the money making business. More and more, immigrants are being demonized and dehumanized.
What solutions do you see?
Most of the obvious solutions have been out there for a long time. Immigrations reform is sorely needed as is a path to citizenship for people who want it. Having over 11 million people who are already contributing to this country living in the shadows is not a good thing for anyone.
Most of Colorado’s immigrants come from Mexico and South America, but it seems many of the issues faced are similar. Do you feel like the immigrant experience has a lot in common, or is it unique to the originating countries/areas?
We might come from different places, but immigrants all have the same hopes and dreams. We are all looking for something better. Something drove us away from our homes, like the incidents described in the book. I feel as though I have a lot in common with all immigrants, including the people we’ve been seeing in the news—climate refugees, folks who are crossing oceans to get to Europe with their children in their arms. All of these folks—no matter where they come from—are me and I am them.
Did your parents ultimately regret leaving you behind, or was it a good and necessary thing? And now that you have two girls, has parenthood influenced your view of that difficult decision?
I completely understand that feeling. I have felt that myself. It was a very necessary thing for them. As a parent, I wrestle whether I would have made that same choice, but it was either leave us and make certain basic things possible for us or stay with us and try to scrape by. I think now that their choice was extremely brave. My mom and I had a conversation about it when I was a teenager and I remember her telling me that every time she was eating she wondered if I was eating and every time she was sleeping she wondered where I was sleeping. Parents have to make this choice all over the world, every day. Sometimes, in impossible circumstances, being a good parent mean making a very unpopular, and to others, incomprehensible choice.