Who is Edwidge Danticat? Is she an entrepreneur, sculptor or perhaps some foreign leader? If you didn't know she is an author, you aren't alone. Most people, including myself until recently, have never heard of her because throughout your education, you have only been exposed to dead white guys. Unless of course your school was ground-breaking and so you were also introduced to authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Sandra Cisneros, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Even so, it is quite unlikely that you encountered The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. This book is a prime example of a little-known, yet worthwhile read for all people.
Danticat's story is set around Amabella who works as a maid in the Dominican Republic. A Haitian native, Amabella has been on her own since she was orphaned at the age of eight. She is in love with a Haitian man named Sebastien. Sebastien is a field hand whose many hours of work have scarred his face and roughened his hands, but Amabella loves him and hopes to marry him. While Amabella is looking to a future with Sebastien, she is also looking over her shoulder at the past and its memories of her parents. Her dreams of the future are shattered by the terror that envelopes the country for the unwanted Haitian community in the Dominican Republic (Danticat).
Danticat's story brings light to the little known injustices that Haitians residing in the Dominican Republic faced during the early 20th century. The most important historical event that Danitcat address is the Haitian/Dominican Massacre in 1937. The dictator at the time, Rafael Trujillo, was inspired by Adolf Hitler's ideas and decided he needed to "whiten" his country. This ended in his soldiers murdering approximately 30,000 unarmed and slightly darker skinned men, women and children along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in October of 1937 (Wucker). This novel is significant because it not only introduces historical events such as the Massacre, but also because it shows a new kind of culture. The Haitian and Dominican Republic's culture is lesser known in the United States, despite the close vicinity to these countries. The countries in the Caribbean have a unique culture that is under acknowledged, but very valuable.
Despite the historical and cultural implications, there is a woman and her life as the center focus of the novel. Amabella relates all her demons and fears to the reader in a way that crosses racial and ethnic borders. She is a woman dealing with life's trials and tribulations and despite the different scenery; they are the same types of problems that everyone faces. She gives a voice to those who are dealing with injustice, death, love and other difficult issues. The heart and soul of the novel is Amabella's relationship with Sebastien. Together they confront the skeletons in their closets, while giving each other support to get through the tumultuous times. They share a realistic love that is flawed and yet that is what makes it so incredible, because its imperfection is what makes their love even more real and meaningful (Danticat).
Who is Edwidge Danticat? She is one of the best authors that you've never heard of and missed during your reading of dead white guys in high school. She is the author of The Farming of the Bones, a novel that gives life to Amabella, a girl whom embraces the ups and downs of life in a world that is different from our own, and yet so the same.