Monday, March 08, 2004

Ultimately, Danticat's book is about memory. The street kid in one of Port-au-Prince's rust-colored slums whom the dew breaker sends to buy a pack of cigarettes is studying history. Thirty years later, in the comparative safety of the United States, children of Haitian exiles study art, or French literature, become nurses, editors, TV stars. Like their contemporaries from other backgrounds, their focus is turned toward the future.

"Ripped from today's headlines" is a loathsome phrase that should be retired even from blurb-speak. Chaos and brutality are ever present in Haiti, as they are now. In less dramatic times, Haiti is easy to dismiss. When Washington invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq, who recalled that the U.S. Marines had occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934? Who pondered what the fruits of that occupation were? Difficult to read Danticat's understated and remarkably unsentimental novel without thinking of Auden's poem which begins "About suffering they were never wrong,/The Old Masters--how it takes place/While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along."

-- From Betsy Willeford's review of Edwidge Danticat's new book, The Dew Breaker, published in yesterday's Miami Herald.

No comments: