In Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder gives us the story of one man’s inspiring American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him, providing brilliant testament to the power of second chances. Deo arrives in the United States from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life and shows us what it means to be fully human.
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Strength in What Remains is an unlikely story about an unreasonable man. Deo was a young medical student who fled the genocidal civil war in Burundi in 1994 for the uncertainty of New York City. Against absurd odds--he arrived with little money and less English and slept in Central Park while delivering groceries for starvation wages--his own ambition and a few kind New Yorkers led him to Columbia University and, beyond that, to medical school and American citizenship. That his rise followed a familiar immigrant's path to success doesn't make it any less remarkable, but what gives Deo's story its particular power is that becoming an American citizen did not erase his connection to Burundi, in either his memory or his dreams for the future. Writing with the same modest but dogged empathy that made his recent Mountains Beyond Mountains (about Deo's colleague and mentor, Dr. Paul Farmer) a modern classic, Tracy Kidder follows Deo back to Burundi, where he recalls the horrors of his narrow escape from the war and begins to build a medical clinic where none had been before. Deo's terrible journey makes his story a hard one to tell; his tirelessly hopeful but clear-eyed efforts make it a gripping and inspiring one to read. --Tom NissleyAmazon Exclusive: Tracy Kidder on Strength in What Remains
I met Deo by chance 6 years ago. When I first heard his story, I had one simple thought: I would not have survived. I hoped in part to reproduce that feeling as I retold his story. I also hoped to humanize what, to most westerners anyway, is a mysterious, little-known part of the world. We hear about mass slaughter in distant countries and we imagine that murder and mayhem define those locales. Deo’s story opens up one of those places into a comprehensible landscape—and also opens up a part of New York that is designed to be invisible, the service entrances of the upper East Side, the camping sites that homeless people use in Central Park. But above all, I think, this is a book about coming to terms with memories. How can a person deal with memories like Deo’s, tormenting memories, memories with a distinctly ungovernable quality?
In the first part of Strength In What Remains, I recount Deo’s story. In the second part, I tell about going back with him to the stations of his life, in New York and Burundi. So the story that I tell isn’t only about the memories that Deo related to me. It’s also about seeing him overtaken by memories—again and again, and sometimes acutely. But Deo didn’t take me to Burundi just to show me around. Giving me a tour of his past was incidental to what he was up to in the present and the future. His story has a denoument that even now amazes me.
Deo is an American citizen. He doesn’t have to go back to Burundi. But he has returned continually and keeps on returning, and, amid the postwar wreckage, with the help of friends and family, he has created a clinic and public health system, free to those who can’t pay, in a rural village—part of a beginning, Deo dreams, of a new Burundi.
This facility was a pile of rocks when I visited the site in the summer of 2006. By the fall of 2008, it had become a medical center with several new buildings, a trained professional staff, and a fully stocked pharmacy. In its first year of operation it treated 21,000 different patients. (The organization that Deo founded and that sponsors and operates this facility is called Village Health Works.)
Deo was very young when he went through his long travail. Several strangers helped to save him from death and despair in Burundi and New York. So did sheer courage and pluck, and also Columbia University, which he attended as an undergraduate. But when it’s come to dealing with the burden of his memories, the public health system and clinic that he founded has been the nearest thing to a solution. In the end, it’s neither forgetting the past nor dwelling on the past that has worked for him. For him the answer has been remembering and acting. I once asked Deo why he had studied philosophy at Columbia. He told me, "I wanted to understand what had happened to me." In the end, he received what most students of philosophy receive—not answers, but more questions. As I was trying to describe his effort to build a clinic, I found myself writing: "Deo had discovered a way to quiet the questions he’d been asking at Columbia. That is, he saw there might be an answer for what troubled him most about the world, an answer that lay in his hands, indeed in his memory. You had to do something."—Tracy Kidder
(Photo © Gabriel Amadeus Cooney)About the Author:
Tracy Kidder graduated from Harvard and studied at the University of Iowa. He has won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Award, and many other literary prizes. The author of Mountains Beyond Mountains, My Detachment, Home Town, Old Friends, Among Schoolchildren, House, and The Soul of a New Machine, Kidder lives in Massachusetts and Maine.
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Book Description Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2010. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Praise for Tracy Kidder's Strength In What Remains "That 63-year-old Tracy Kidder may have just written his finest work -- indeed, one of the truly stunning books I''ve read this year -- is proof that the secret to memorable nonfiction is so often the writer's readiness to be surprised. Deo's experience can feel like this era's version of the Ellis Island migration. Deo is propelled, so often, by pure will, and his victories.summon a feeling of restored confidence in human nature and American opportunity. Then we plunge into hell. Having only glimpses of Deo's past, we suddenly get a full-blown portrait. Kidder's rendering of what Deo endured and survived just before he boarded the plane for New York is one of the most powerful passages of modern nonfiction." Ron Suskind, The New York Time Book Review "Kidder tells Deo''s story with characteristic skill and sensitivity in a complex narrative that moves back and forth through time to build a richly layered portrait. One of the pleasures of reading Kidder is that sooner or later, in most of his books, someone puts us in mind of the closing lines from ''Middlemarch'''': ''For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.''''" Boston Globe "A tale of unspeakable barbarism and unshakeable strength." Time Magazine "It is a mark of the skill and empathy of Mr. Kidder, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, that he makes Deo''s story come alive believablyas the experience of a real individualand avoids.the usual tropes of a triumph-of-the- human-spirit tale. [T]he book encourages a general hope that individuals can transcend even the greatest horrors." Wall Street Journal "Strength in What Remains" builds in magnitude and poignancy. It is moving without being uplifting, because Kidder has the intelligence to avoid any hint of the saccharine within its pages." Chicago Tribune "[Tracy Kidder's] kind of literary journalism.involves seeing the world through the eyes of those he writes about; not judging them, simply presenting them as they move through life. Kidder is one of the best, if not the best, at it, garnering a Pulitzer, a National Book Award and generations of grateful readers." Susan Salter Reynolds, The Los Angeles Times "In its sober ability to astonish, this may well be Tracy Kidder''s best book." Cleveland Plain Dealer "Tracy Kidder''s new book "Strength in What Remains" is.a narrative infused with a broad, universal appeal and occasional touches of brilliance. He offers us fine prose, complex characters, and realistic portrayals. Deo''s resilience, his struggle to overcome adversity strikes a chord in all of us. His story reaffirms our hope that one person can make a difference. [T]his book is one not to be missed. Seattle Times Tracy Kidder is probably one of the few authors alive who can craft a narrative from the extremes of despair and hope and make it work beautifully. Kidder is a master of creative nonfiction, employing both journalistic and novelistic techniques to tell a true story, compellingly. Steve Weinberg, Raleigh News & Observer "With an anthropologist's eye and a novelist's pen, Pulitzer Prizewinning Kidder ( Mountains Beyond Mountains ) recounts the story of Deo, the Burundian former medical student turned American migr at the center of this strikingly vivid story. This profoundly gripping, hopeful and crucial testament is a work of the utmost skill, sympathy and moral clarity." Publishers Weekly ( starred review) "A tale of ethnocide, exile and healing by a master of narrative nonfiction. Terrifying at turns, but tremendously inspiring.a key document in the growing literature devoted to postgenocidal justice." Kirkus Reviews "Read this book, and it''s one that you will not likely forget. The story of a. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0812977610
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Book Description Random House USA Inc, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 201 x 130 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. In Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder gives us the story of one man s inspiring American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him, providing brilliant testament to the power of second chances. Deo arrives in the United States from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life and shows us what it means to be fully human. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780812977615
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