Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Book #3 of 2007 was Anacaona: Golden Flower by Edwidge Danticat. This is part of The Royal Diaries series, all of which are stories of young princesses or queens.

The difficulty of writing Anacaona's diary is that the Taino people of which she was a part had no form of writing. Danticat has dealt with this problem by imagining that she kept a record of her thoughts using symbols; "even though the Tainos had no written language, they had petroglyphs - rock paintings and pictographs through which they kept records of their lives." I quickly suspended disbelief and accepted this idea. But this was the one flaw of the story, and it kept resurfacing - how much of this story had any basis in fact? I knew that when Columbus and his men arrived, the events were historically accurate, but the time beforehand, it seems to me, was mostly imagined. As with all the books of the series, there's some documentary material included at the end, but most of that is from the period after the Spaniards had arrived. Still, it was very interesting and entertaining to read of the idyllic world of Xaragua, located in present-day Haiti.

Whether or not the Anacaona created by Danticat is like the real Anacaona, there's no denying that her story is tragic in the extreme. I'm glad that this book was written about her.


Anonymous said...

As a decendant of Anacaona, I must say that there are a lot of inacurate parts to the book just from reading the summary, Some even insulting. Quisqueya was the island that the Spaniards called Hispanola after the conquest, which is now divided into two countries-The Dominican Republic(2/3 of the country) and Haiti(1/3). Anacaona is from the part that was recently taken over By the French(Haiti). So it is inaccurate when they say Haitian when refering to her because there was no such country. Many of the items I have crossed show how the spaniards manipulated the language and beliefs of the "New World". I saw don't belive everything you read unless it comes up as the same story numerous times and even then it can just be a translation that has been passed down and corrupted throughout the years. Taynos did not have a written language, so how could there be a diary of any Indian? The bookeepers were usually employed by spaniards.

Ruth said...

Hi, Primera Dama. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Danticat's book does not use the word "Haitian" to describe Anacaona or her country. Obviously Haiti did not exist then. In my review I called it "present-day Haiti."

I also pointed out in my review that the Tainos (the spelling Danticat uses) did not have a written language and that Danticat used her imagination to create a possible way Anacaona could have communicated. This is a work of the imagination, not a historical record.

I'm sorry you felt insulted. It certainly wasn't my intention, and I'm sure it wasn't Danticat's intention either. She treats Anacaona with the utmost respect as a character. This is a work of fiction.

I also said in my review that the documentary material included in the book was from after the arrival of the Spaniards. At that point, of course everything in writing was from their point of view.

I don't uncritically believe everything I read and I certainly don't take a historical novel written for children as the equivalent of a primary source.

Again, thanks for reading! I hope I cleared up some of your concerns. If not, try reading the book. Any errors in the review are surely my fault and not due to Danticat's work.

Anonymous said...

I love this book.