Strength in What Remains

Cover of Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Fall 2010's common reader is Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder. Students are encouraged to read this book prior to the start of classes in the fall.

A young man arrives in the big city with two hundred dollars in his pocket, no English at all, and memories of horror so fresh that he sometimes confuses past and present. When Deo first told me about his beginnings in New York, I had a simple thought: "I would not have survived." And then, two years later, he enrolls in an Ivy League university. How did this happen? Where did he find the strength, and how had he won the beneficence of strangers? How had it felt to be him? 

                     --from Strength in What Remains


Tracy Kidder

A lot of the job of a person trying to write stories that are true is to make what’s true believable. It isn’t enough to say, well, it actually happened. You have to make itbelievable on the page; you have to bring people to life and scenes to life.—Tracy Kidder

Over his long career, Kidder’s writing has been prolific and outstanding. The Soul of a New Machine—a book celebrated for its insight into the world of high-tech corporate America—earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1982. Other bestselling works include House (1985), Among Schoolchildren (1989), Old Friends (1993) and Home Town(1999). His enormously influential book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, (2003), captures two global health crises, tuberculosis and AIDS, through the eyes of a single-minded physician bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet.

The story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a major force in revolutionizing international health, is a gripping and inspiring account one man’s efforts to establish clinics and hospitals—his compassion for the poor, his inner circle of true believers and, ultimately, his success in helping stem the tide of new HIV and TB infections in Haiti. Farmer is the founder of Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a non-governmental organization that is the only health-care provider in the Plateau Central in Haiti.

Mountains Beyond Mountains “reminds us that we’re implicated in all the problems [Farmer] is working to solve…His complicated humanity only makes him more like the rest of us in our shortcomings—and leaves us asking why we all aren’t a little more like him in our virtues” (Newsweek).

Kidder’s book, My Detachment, is an extraordinary honest account of his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. Writing for the first time about himself, Kidder presents an unromanticized self-portrait of a young man coming of age in the controversial war that defined a generation.

In his latest release, Strength in What Remains, Kidder delivers the humbling story of Deo, a young man whose will to survive and love of knowledge take him from the horrors of genocide in Burundi to Columbia University and then on to medical school--a brilliant testament to the power of second chances and an inspiring account of one immigrant's remarkable American journey. Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health also play a pivotal role in Deo’s story, as they inspire him to transform the nightmares of his deeply impoverished and war torn country into the dream of establishing his own clinic in Burundi.

Born in New York City in 1945, Kidder spent his childhood in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended Harvard where he earned a BA in 1967. From June 1968 until June 1969, he served as a lieutenant in Vietnam for which he was awarded a Bronze Star. Following the war, Kidder obtained his MA from the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Writers’ Workshop, a program known for the literary accomplishments of its faculty and alumni. It was there that Kidder met Atlantic Monthly Contributing Editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment for the magazine as a freelance writer. Kidder’s articles have covered a broad array of topics, ranging from railroads, to energy, architecture, the environment among others. 

I’m a little suspicious of the great, overarching view. It always leaves something out. What interests me is trying to catch the reflection of the human being on the page. I’m interested in how ordinary people live their lives.

                    —Tracy Kidder 

Tracy Kidder’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Granta and The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times OpEd page and he has also written several short works of fiction. Kidder lives with his wife in western Massachusetts and in Maine.



Related News

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Deo brings story of help and hope to UD

Journey of discovery leads UD alum to Burundi health clinic

Author Kidder recounts one man's journey of strength and survival

Russell Coffeehouse Raises Money for Villiage Health Works in Burundi



To access a copy of Strength in What Remains in an alternative format, please contact: The Office of Disability Support Services at or 302-831-4643


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