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The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States written by Edwidge Danticat

 

The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States written by Edwidge Danticat

Overview:

In four sections—Childhood, Migration, First Generation, and Return—the contributors to this anthology write powerfully, often hauntingly, of their lives in Haiti and the United States. Jean-Robert Cadet's description of his Haitian childhood as a restavec—a child slave—in Port-au-Prince contrasts with Dany Laferriere's account of a ten-year-old boy and his beloved grandmother in Petit-Gove. We read of Marie Helene Laforest's realization that while she was white in Haiti, in the United States she is black. Patricia Benoit tells us of a Haitian woman refugee in a detention center who has a simple need for a red dress—dignity. The reaction of a man who has married the woman he loves is the theme of Gary Pierre-Pierre's "The White Wife"; the feeling of alienation is explored in "Made Outside" by Francie Latour. The frustration of trying to help those who have remained in Haiti and of the do-gooders who do more for themselves than the Haitians is described in Babette Wainwright's "Do Something for Your Soul, Go to Haiti." The variations and permutations of the divided self of the Haitian emigrant are poignantly conveyed in this unique anthology.

Synopsis:

In five sections - Childhood, Migration, Half / First Generation, Return, and Future - the contributors to this anthology write powerfully, often hauntingly, of their lives in Haiti and the United States. Jean-Robert Cadet's description of his Haitian childhood as a restavek - a child slave - in Port-au-Prince contrasts with Dany Laferiere's account of a ten-year-old boy and his beloved grandmother in Petit-Goave. We read of Marie Helene Laforest's realization that while she was white in Haiti, in the United States she is black. Patricia Benoit tells us of a Haitian woman regugee in a detention center who has a simple need, a red dress - dignity. The reaction of a man when he marries the woman he loves is the theme of Gary Pierre-Pierre's "The White Wife"; the feeling of alienation is explored in "Made Outside" by Francie Latour. The frustration of trying to help those who remained and of the do-gooders who do more for themselves than the Haitians is described in Babette Wainwright's "Do Somthing for Your Soul, Go to Haiti." The variations and permutations of the divided self of the Haitian emigrant are poignantly conveyed in this unique anthology.

Publishers Weekly

The experience of Haitian migr s in what novelist Danticat (Krik? Krak!; etc.) calls the "tenth" geographical "department" of Haiti--"the floating homeland, the ideological one, which joined all Haitians living in the dyaspora"--is the theme of this collection of 33 spare and evocative essays and poems. Most of these writers fled political instability as children and describe the dual reality of alienation from yetbelonging to two worlds, forging an identity separate from that of their parents in the new country, while at the same time continuing to wait for stability in the old country. Nik l Payen tells of her experience as a U.S. Justice Department-sponsored interpreter who uses her knowledge of Krey l ("the language whose purpose in life up until now had been to pain and confuse me") as "an asset" to translate for refugees waiting in horrific conditions at Guantanamo Naval Base following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When she witnesses the return of some of these Haitians--denied entrance to the U.S.--she likens their journey to the African Middle Passage. In another, Marie-H l ne Laforest, whose lighter skin color and family's wealth made her "white" in Haiti, realizes that she is simply black in America and later forges a third identity in Italy. Francie Latour, a journalist, convinces her American newspaper to send her to Haiti with a noble aim, but ends up "hitting a cultural wall" and being viewed as a "traitor" by her native people. This rich collection of writings will appeal to the growing number of Haitian-Americans and others interested in the question of the migr 's sense of identity. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Excerpt:


Chapter One


    Present Past Future


    Marc Christophe


What will I tell you, my son?
What will I say to you, my daughter?
You for whom the tropics
Are a marvelous paradise
A blooming garden of islands floating
In the blue box
Of the Caribbean sea
What will I tell you
When you ask me
Father, speak to us of Haiti?
Then my eyes sparkling with pride
I would love to tell you
Of the blue mornings of my country
When the mountains stretch out
Lazily
In the predawn light
The waterfalls flowing
With freshness
The fragrance of molasses-filled coffee
In the courtyards
The fields of sugar cane
Racing
In cloudy waves
Towards the horizon
The heated voices of peasant men
Who caress the earth
With their fertile hands
The supple steps of peasant women
On top of the dew
The morning clamor
In the plains the small valleys
And the lost hamlets
Which cloak the true heart
Of Haiti.
I would also tell you
Of the tin huts
Slumbering beneath the moon
In the milky warmth
Of spirit-filled
Summer nights
And the countryside cemeteries
Where the ancestors rest
In graves ornate
With purple seashells
And the sweet and heady perfumes
Of basilique lemongrass
I would love to tell you
Of the colonial elegance of the villas
Hidden in the bougainvilleas
And the beds of azaleas
And the vastpaved trails
Behind dense walls
The verandahs with princely mosaics
Embellished
With large vases of clay
Covered
With sheets of ferns
Pink cretonnes
Verandahs where one catches
A breath of fresh air
During nights
Of staggering heat
By listening to
The sounds of the city
Rising up to the foothills
I would love to recite for you
The great history
Of the peoples of my country
Their daily struggles
For food and drink
Tireless people
Hardworking people
Whose lives are a struggle
With no end
Against misery
Fatigue
Dust
In the open markets
Under the sun's blazing breath
I would want to make you see
The clean unbroken streets
Straight as arrows
Bordered by the green
Of royal palms and date palms in bloom
I would love to make you admire
The shadowed dwellings
The oasis of green
Of my Eden
I would carry you
On my shivering wings
To the top of Croix D'Haiti
And from there
Your gaze would travel over
These mountains
These plains
These valleys
These towns
These schools
These orphanages
These studios
These churches
These factories
These hounforts
These prayer houses
These universities
These art houses
Conceived by our genius
Where hope never dies.

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Title: The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States

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