5 hours ago
Monday, September 27, 2010
I have enjoyed Edwidge Danticat's children's books, Behind the Mountains and Anacaona: Golden Flower, and since she has small children herself, I keep hoping she will write more. I had the privilege of meeting this wonderful Haitian writer a few years ago and I have enjoyed sharing her work with my students. I was excited when I heard that she had written a children's book about the Haitian earthquake.
But she did even better than write about the earthquake. In Eight Days: A Story of Haiti (Danticat's first picture book, as far as I know), she has written about normal, ordinary, beautiful life in Haiti.
Junior is seven, and he is trapped under his house for eight days. We know from the first page that he is rescued, as we see him surrounded by news crews with huge cameras. But then we find out what he has played in his mind during his time in the rubble. Here are all the normal things Haitian children do, like marbles, kite-flying, hide and seek, visiting Papa at his business, singing in the choir at the church, soccer. Here is a beautiful Haitian family, welcoming back their rescued son. There is grief in this story, but it is understated. The main message is that Haiti is a place worth rebuilding, a place of hope.
In an afterword, Danticat talks about returning to Haiti after the earthquake and having an elderly neighbor say to her, "Thank God your children knew Haiti before all this." I am thankful for the same thing, that my children knew Haiti before all this, and that there is more to Haiti than "earthquake-ravaged." "When you look into the eyes of any child," Danticat reminds us, "you are looking at much more possibility than words can ever express."
I am thankful Edwidge Danticat wrote this book and I hope many children will read it and learn about the Haiti that was, and will be again.
This post is linked to the October 2nd edition of the Saturday Review of Books.