Behind the Mountains

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Overview

In award-winning author Edwidge Danticat's first novel for young readers, it is election time in Haiti. Bombs are going off in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and Celiane Esperance and her mother are nearly killed, giving them a fresh resolve to join Celiane's father in Brooklyn, New York. The harsh winter and concrete landscape are a shock to Celiane, who witnesses her parents' struggle to earn a living, her brother's uneasy adjustment to America, and her own encounters ...
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First Person Fiction: Behind the Mountains

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Overview

In award-winning author Edwidge Danticat's first novel for young readers, it is election time in Haiti. Bombs are going off in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, and Celiane Esperance and her mother are nearly killed, giving them a fresh resolve to join Celiane's father in Brooklyn, New York. The harsh winter and concrete landscape are a shock to Celiane, who witnesses her parents' struggle to earn a living, her brother's uneasy adjustment to America, and her own encounters with learning difficulties and school violence.

Writing in the notebook which her teacher gave her, thirteen-year-old Celiane describes life with her mother and brother in Haiti as well as her experiences in Brooklyn after the family finally immigrates there to be reunited with her father.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Grade 5 Up-As the best student in the class, Celiane is given a "sweet little book" in which she decides to keep a journal. Her entries date from October 2000 to March 2001, and chronicle the family's departure from their homeland of Haiti to join her father, who had immigrated to New York City five years earlier. In graceful prose, Danticat seamlessly weaves together all that such a decision involves: the difficulties of rural life on the island and a longing for an absent parent combined with a fondness for her tiny mountain village with "the rainbows during sun showers- the smell of pinewood burning, the golden-brown sap dripping into the fire"; and the excitement and violence of Port-au-Prince where Celiane and her mother are injured in bombings before the elections. When Celiane, her mother, and her 19-year-old brother are finally approved to enter the U.S., the teen knows everything will be all right as soon as she sees her father, but there are the unavoidable frictions among family members, fueled not only by the separation and adjustment to a new country, but also by the natural maturing process that the children undergo. In this gem of a book, Danticat explores the modern immigrant experience through the eyes of one teen.
Publishers Weekly
In this novel, part of the First Person Fiction series, 13-year-old Celiane recounts her journey from her mountain village in Haiti to join her father in Brooklyn in a "charming, innocent voice," according to PW. Ages 11-15. (Feb.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
"Behind the mountains are more mountains." Danticat has used the Haitian proverb more than once in her autobiographical novels of living in Haiti and New York. This book purports to be the diary of thirteen-year-old Celiane Espérance as she describes her life in a village in the mountains of Haiti and then her adjustment to New York City. Celiane, her brother, and mother live in the house that her father built. When a visit to an aunt in Port-au-Prince ends in politically motivated violence, they realize that they must leave, and if they can, go to New York to join their father and husband. Leaving home is never easy, however, even with plane tickets and visas. Life in New York is not quite the stuff of dreams. Behind the mountains are always more mountains. Overcome one obstacle and another moves right in. Celiane's story is close to Danticat's own, as the reader learns from the author's six-page postscript titled "My Personal Journey." If the diary device seems overused, know that this book employs a unique approach. The Dear America series and its offspring are based on historical research with the skillful authors leading the reader back in time. This series, First Person Fiction, asks its contributors to write from their own experiences, bringing authentic voices to books about immigration. Danticat's contribution offers an impressive start and might lead older readers to ask for more from this author. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2002, Orchard, 153p,
— Lynne Hawkins
Children's Literature
Celiane, her brother Moy, and her mother Aline live in the beautiful mountains on the island of Haiti. Though they are poor and have a simple existence, they are on the whole a happy family, except for one thing. Celiane's father Victor is not with them. He is in New York City trying to raise enough money to bring his family to America to join him. Having the family broken up is hard for everyone, and at the same time, the thought of leaving Haiti is also hard. As with so many young people, Celiane feels torn between the love of her homeland and those who live there, and the love of her father who has left to try to build a better life for his family elsewhere. It is an old story that has been told many times before, yet Edwidge Dandicat has succeeded in telling Celiane's story in such a way that it is fresh and poignant, bittersweet and heartwarming. The pain that political strife can bring to the innocent is especially sharp and clear in this story, as Celiane's family is personally touched by the violence that rocks Port-au-Prince during the Presidential elections in 2000. Reading about such a state of affairs is a grim reminder of how many people in other parts of the world must live their lives day after day. Drawing on her personal memories and from material that she gathered on her more recent trips back to Haiti, Edwidge Dandicat has created a memorable book which will give anyone who reads it a picture of a culture that is vibrant, warm and colorful. It shows us the world of a people who struggle to find peace and stability in their daily lives. At the back of the book the reader will find an interesting description of the author's own journey from Haiti. This is one of the new"First Person Fiction" books. 2003, Orchard Books,
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
From The Critics
Young Celiane is presented with the best gift of all, a blank notebook, in which she decides to write down all of her feelings. Living in Haiti, Celiane, her brother Moy, and her mother, Manman, are threatened by bombs going off in Port-au-Prince during election time. Celiane writes of her mixed emotions of the uncertainty of their arrival in New York, where their father has been working to support them. As they begin their new life in New York as a family reunited, things are not as picture perfect as Celiane had imagined. Celiane encounters many things that confuse her emotions, including moving to a brand new country, riding in a bus that has been bombed, having a brother that moves out of the house. Celiane is able to record and sort out this spectrum of feelings by writing them in her little notebook. The first person narration by the author of Krik? Krak! will likely capture reader's hearts and emotions as Celiane's pain, sadness and triumph are shared in this interesting story. 2002, Orchard Books, 176 pp.,
— Kimberly Sandberg
School Library Journal
Gr 5 Up-As the best student in the class, Celiane is given a "sweet little book" in which she decides to keep a journal. Her entries date from October 2000 to March 2001, and chronicle the family's departure from their homeland of Haiti to join her father, who had immigrated to New York City five years earlier. In graceful prose, Danticat seamlessly weaves together all that such a decision involves: the difficulties of rural life on the island and a longing for an absent parent combined with a fondness for her tiny mountain village with "the rainbows during sun showers- the smell of pinewood burning, the golden-brown sap dripping into the fire"; and the excitement and violence of Port-au-Prince where Celiane and her mother are injured in bombings before the elections. When Celiane, her mother, and her 19-year-old brother are finally approved to enter the U.S., the teen knows everything will be all right as soon as she sees her father, but there are the unavoidable frictions among family members, fueled not only by the separation and adjustment to a new country, but also by the natural maturing process that the children undergo. In this gem of a book, Danticat explores the modern immigrant experience through the eyes of one teen.-Diane S. Marton, Arlington County Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A 13-year-old Haitian girl describes, over the course of five months, her life in Haiti and then in New York as she, her mother, and her brother join her father, who left Haiti years before. Celiane loves her life in the mountain village of Beau Jour; she is near her grandparents, the mountains agree with her, and she is the recent recipient of a journal from her teacher—because she is such a good writer. The only hole in her life is that left by her father, who sends a cassette tape addressing each family member in turn, but from whom she feels increasingly estranged by time and distance. When the bus she and her mother are riding in gets blown up in pre-election violence—the year is 2000, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide is running for re-election—the effort to reunite with her father moves into high gear. Her Tante Rose, a nurse, pulls some diplomatic strings, and suddenly they are all together in New York. This is Danticat’s (After the Dance, p. 782, etc.) first novel for children, and it shares with others that have gone before it a tendency to write down to the audience. The diary entries are by and large flat; Celiane writes of the violence in curiously disengaged tones, considering that she and her mother are victims. Likewise, when the narrative moves to New York, the upheaval this creates for the family is related from a distance, despite the supposed current nature of the diary: "It wasn’t anything [Papa] said, just the way his face looked, tightly drawn and strained. Perhaps we, especially me, were going to be more of a burden to him than he had first thought." It is unfortunate that there are so few children’s novels of Haiti that this offering naturally begscomparison to Frances Temple’s electrifying A Taste of Salt (1992). This, alas, is a pale successor. (Fiction. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780439372992
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Series: First Person Fiction Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Age range: 12 - 15 Years
  • Lexile: 940L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 7.98 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, until she was twelve years old, when she moved to the United States to be reunited with her family. She published her first pieces of literary work just two years later. She has written many award-winning books, including BREATH, EYES, MEMORY, a member of Oprah's Book Club; KRIK? KRAK!, a National Book Award Nominee; THE FARMING OF BONES, an American Book Award Winner; and BROTHER, I'M DYING, a National Book Critics Circle winner. She is a 2009 winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant. Edwidge lives with her family in Miami, Florida.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 1, 2012

    This is one of my favorite Edwidge Danticat books. I read this b

    This is one of my favorite Edwidge Danticat books. I read this book when I was a young teen. Being Haitian American, I was not always proud being Haitian. This book changed that. I also became an instant Edwidge Danticat fan. I recommend this book to any young Haitian American girl. It gives a whole new outlook on the Haitian and Haitian American culture.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2004

    An impassioned history

    Behind the Mountains is Edwidge Danticat¿s endeavor into young adult fiction. Danticat, renowned for her adult works such as ¿The Farming of Bones,¿ ¿Krik? Krak!¿ and ¿Breath, Eyes, Memory,¿ is a Haitian-American author who writes with incredible beauty and poise. While Behind the Mountains is not as enchanting as her other works, it is an important story of a young girl, Celiane, growing up in present-day Haiti. The political unrest in her nation leads her family to be split apart, and eventually, Celiane moves to America. This novel, told in journal-entry form, chronicles her feelings and experiences during this tumultuous time. The history of Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, is incredibly violent and devastating, and you may have to be prepared to explain this to young readers during their reading of the book (read ¿The Farming of Bones¿ for a more detailed account). It is an excellent and appropriate book for children as young as fifth grade. Celiane is a relatable character and the story is quite moving. Danticat is one of my favorite authors, and I highly recommend this as well as her other books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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