Ghosts by Edwidge DanticatJanuary 25, 2010
Until she won the “Genius” grant last year, I had never heard of Edwidge Danticat. (I know.) I thought she sounded like a great author, and a friend of mine who works in Haiti highly recommended her writing. The tragedy last week made me want to read her even more because I wanted to learn about the country’s culture and people. I was already pretty familiar with the everyday tragedies that occurred in Haiti long before the earthquake struck, but I had never read anything written by people who were actually Haitian. Luckily, Eva’s new blog template pointed me to one of Danticat’s short stories, Ghosts. It’s available online, but I fished out my old copy of The New Yorker issue. I’m so glad I did–this story is remarkably well written. It’s too bad that I didn’t give this story a try when I first read the rest of the issue in November 2008. What made me skip over it, I wonder?
The story focuses on Pascal, a young Haitian growing up in one of the most violent neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince. He isn’t interesting in joining the neighborhood gang, but that seems to only make his life more difficult. Danticat tells Pascal’s story in such a matter of fact, straightforward way, that I found myself accidentally slipping into thinking that I was reading another one of The New Yorker’s typical narrative nonfiction pieces, and that this was an actual story of an actual boy that a journalist met in Haiti. That’s how realistic these characters are! If you’re looking for a good introduction to Danticat (that’s also online for free), this would definitely be the place to start. I noticed that Danticat wrote the introduction to my copy of Their Eyes Were Watching God. Now I’m even more excited to read that.
This week, Danticat has written a rather emotional story for The New Yorker about the earthquake. I haven’t it yet, as I’m waiting for my issue to arrive in the mail. If you are intrigued, you can read it online or buy a copy of this week’s issue. If you poke around that site, you’ll also find the transcript of an online talk she did with the magazine today. All really interesting stuff.