There is no question that Krik? Krak!’s short stories are gritty. Danticat doesn’t hold back any punches as she gives us a glimpse into the reality of Haitian life through the nine short stories included here. Her prose is both beautiful and simple—it’s part of the genius of her work. The clarity and subtlety of her writing stands in stark contrast to the heaviness of what her stories share. Rarely can an author translate such depths of emotion and paint such lasting images, much less in the span of a short story, as Danticat does.
The power of these stories is found in their examination of the lives of ordinary Haitians trying to survive the brutality of both of the Duvalier regimes. Taking place in Port au Prince, the fictional Ville Rose, and New York City, the majority of her stories focus on the lives of individual women. They force us to acknowledge both the plight and the unending strength of these Haitian women. They are a testament both to the survival and the depravity of the human spirit. Poverty, hunger, corruption, and torture are depicted alongside resiliency, faith, dignity, and hope. As we become familiar with Danticat’s characters, moved and pained by the seemingly increasing distance between their hopes and their lived reality, we are forced to realize that it is the actions of other humans that have created such painful experiences. Not all of Danticat’s characters survive; in fact, many do not. But what continues to remain is the spirit of hope, the determination to hold on to what it really means to be Haitian, even after one has escaped to the United States. Quite creatively, Danticat weaves a more circular connection among the female characters of her stories, alluding to related lineages. While there are connections among the stories through references to other characters or events, each story can stand on its own, making it easy for a teacher to pick and choose which stories would be most appropriate for his or her class.
Due to much of the content, Krik? Krak! is most appropriate for high school age readers. While Krik? Krak! may be quite unlike other literature typically included in our classrooms, it is for this reason that we should use it. Not only does Danticat provide an excellent example of literary style, she shares the often overlooked history of Haiti, providing our students with an engaging and personal account of what life has been like for some of the United States’ closest neighbors. One that they may never hear otherwise.
For more on using Krik? Krak! in your classroom check out our Educator Guides section for lesson plans and activities.