Saludos todos! As many of you know, once a month we like to take the time to give special attention to our featured authors and their writing.This week we are featuring Edwidge Danticat, the prolific, inspiring author of many children’s, young adult, and adult books, whom many of you may also recognize from several of my previous ¡Mira, Look! posts. Danticat is originally from Haiti and her books often deal with the culture of Haiti and the immigrant experience, providing a wealth of information on the country’s history, culture and current events.
Here is a short synopsis from Goodreads of Danticat’s life and her abundant accomplishments:
Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures.
This month’s featured book here at Vamos a Leer is The Farming of Bones, an adult novel by Danticat that does not cease to captivate and mesmerize readers yet again. The story takes place on the Haitian-Dominican Republic border, a place that has also recently been the focus of conflict and immigration disputes, during the 1930s when the Dominican dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo was in power. A summary from Goodreads provides a good synopsis of the book:
The Farming of Bones begins in 1937 in a village on the Dominican side of the river that separates the country from Haiti. Amabelle Desir, Haitian-born and a faithful maidservant to the Dominican family that took her in when she was orphaned, and her lover Sebastien, an itinerant sugarcane cutter, decide they will marry and return to Haiti at the end of the cane season. However, hostilities toward Haitian laborers find a vitriolic spokesman in the ultra-nationalist Generalissimo Trujillo who calls for an ethnic cleansing of his Spanish-speaking country. As rumors of Haitian persecution become fact, as anxiety turns to terror, Amabelle and Sebastien’s dreams are leveled to the most basic human desire: to endure. Based on a little-known historical event, this extraordinarily moving novel memorializes the forgotten victims of nationalist madness and the deeply felt passion and grief of its survivors.
Danticat’s books often include a sprinkle of Creole words and phrases, as some of you may remember from my post on Mama’s Nightingale. As others of you may recall, in my post on The Children of Yayoute by Haitian artist and writer François Turenne des Près, I discuss the popular, Haitian call-and-response saying, “Krik? Krak!,” and the rich tradition of Haitian oral folklore. In one of Danticat’s earlier novels, Krik? Krak!, she uses this call-and-response saying as the book’s title, alluding to a variety of Haitian customs and traditions and the history of story-telling in Haiti. This fascinating medley of cultural references, anecdotes, and historical information is characteristic of Danticat’s whole ouevre. Not only does she expertly render cultural particularities and personal familiarities, but, moreover, she makes them accessible to a wide audience.
Danticat is an artful and inspiring author whose work, infused with many levels of social conscience, educates readers of a variety of ages in a variety of ways. She is one of our most consistently featured and written-about authors here at Vamos a Leer, in large because the beauty and depth of her writing continue to amaze us. This week in particular we join in the choir of praise for her and her moving works.
For those of you interested in learning more about Edwidge Danticat and her work, here are some additional links:
- TED talk with Edwidge Danticat– Stories of Haiti
- Ghosts — New Yorker piece by Edwidge Danticat
- “All Immigrants are Artists” — The Atlantic article about Edwidge Danticat, including excerpts from interviews
- The New Yorker, list of contributions by Edwidge Danticat
- New Yorker podcast, Junot Diaz reads Edwidge Danticat
I hope everyone has a wonderful winter holiday, and I look forward to reconnecting with everyone in the new year!