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

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

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by Edwidge Danticat
     
 

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In five sections—Childhood, Migration, Half/First Generation, Return, and Future—the thirty-three contributors to this anthology write movingly, often hauntingly, of their lives in Haiti and the United States. Their dyaspora, much like a butterfly's fluctuating path, is a shifting landscape in which there is much travel between two worlds,

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Overview

In five sections—Childhood, Migration, Half/First Generation, Return, and Future—the thirty-three contributors to this anthology write movingly, often hauntingly, of their lives in Haiti and the United States. Their dyaspora, much like a butterfly's fluctuating path, is a shifting landscape in which there is much travel between two worlds, between their place of origin and their adopted land.

This compilation of essays and poetry brings together Haitian-Americans of different generations and backgrounds, linking the voices for whom English is a first language and others whose dreams will always be in French and Kreyòl. Community activists, scholars, visual artists and filmmakers join renowned journalists, poets, novelists and memoirists to produce a poignant portrayal of lives in transition.

Edwidge Danticat, in her powerful introduction, pays tribute to Jean Dominique, a sometime participant in the Haitian dyaspora and a recent martyr to Haiti's troubled politics, and the many members of the dyaspora who refused to be silenced. Their stories, set down here, confidently and passionately illustrate the joys and heartaches, hopes and aspirations of a relatively new group of American immigrants belonging to two countries that have each at times maligned and embraced them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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.
Library Journal
Danticat, author of the award-winning Breath, Eyes, Memory, has brought together numerous poems, essays, stories, and letters by individuals whose Haitian experiences helped shape them. The definition of the "diaspora" given recently by the Haitian Embassy's Gerard Alphonse Ferere is "any dispersal of people to foreign soils." But in Danticat's introduction, we also learn that the "dyaspora" is the "floating homeland, the ideological one, join[ing] all Haitians living in the dyaspora." Poet Marc Christophe leads the selections with a poem on the sensory Haiti he remembers, "the heated voice of peasant men/ who caress the earth/ with their fertile hands/ the supple steps of peasant women/ on top of the dew." In the chapter on migration, we learn about Gary Pierre-Pierre's interracial marriage and the reactions to it. Martine Bury tells a similar story in her essay, "You and Me Against the World." The selections are varied, colorful, and interesting. Recommended for all libraries.--Barbara O'Hara, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569472187
Publisher:
Soho Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
07/01/2003
Pages:
280
Sales rank:
942,865
Product dimensions:
5.51(w) x 8.14(h) x 0.71(d)

Read an 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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