Alexander Godin: My Dead Brother Comes to America (Deal Me In – Week 28)

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The New World breathed a chill upon us and this chill, we felt, was not due entirely to the season.

Current political climate aside, it’s difficult to think of the American story without thinking of the immigrant’s story and that probably accounts for the fact that there are so many short stories written from an immigrant’s point of view. Alexander Godin’s “My Dead Brother Comes to America” is a prime example.

Narrated by a thirteen year-old Ukrainian boy on a ship pulling in to New York harbor, he and his family catch a glimpse of his father already on shore – a father he hasn’t seen since he was five.

On Ellis Island, the reader gets the mixture of sympathy, pity and resentment from those “checking in” the first-time arrivals to the United States.

But for the most part, we get the fear and excitement from the narrator. He also has a grudge against his father. With more mixed emotions, the reader isn’t sure where the grudge is coming from. Is it simply the fact that the father has been away for eight years? Or is there more to the story?

Behind the scenes looms the story alluded to in the title. I admit that I had a number of thoughts on how the story plays out simply based on reading the title. None of my thoughts were exactly correct but I’ll let readers find out for themselves the premise surrounding the title.

short stories century

This story is included in my copy of The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike. I read it when I selected the Eight of Clubs for Week 28 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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