Let me read you just the forward to these chilling stories, and then talk about them a bit more.
What comes out in this series of brutal sketches is not merely the ruthless oppression by foreigners, by economic colonizers. Danticat forces us to see how such oppression corrupts and brutalizes the oppressed so that the Haitian thugs, called police, are if anything worse than the white men who made it possible for them to come to power. No wonder so many thousands of Haitians took to the sea in rickety, unseaworthy craft, perished within minutes or hours off the coast of Haiti—the choice being more how they suffered and died than between servitude and freedom. Most of these stories take place in Haiti, though a few describe how immigrant Haitians live in New York, memories and eyes cast back to Haiti.
Krick? Krack! Somewhere by the seacoast I feel the breath of warm sea air and hear the laughter of children.
An old granny smokes her pipe,
surrounded by village children ....
‘We tell the stories so that the young ones
will know what came before them.
They ask Krick? we say Krack!
Our stories are kept in our hearts’.
I find it almost impossible to talk about these stories. Instead, I will read one section from the epilogue, “Women Like Us,” and hope that you will hear enough of the voice, enough of the passion and the poetry, to pick up the book. And if you read these sketches, you may also want to read Danticat’s fine first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory. The novel is a bit less sad though the voice of the writer is unmistakable.