Further Research

Learn more about: Edwidge Danticat’s New Narrative for Haiti

 This article  by Robyn Cope discusses the ways in which Haitain-American novelist, Edwidge Danticat, captures Haitian culture and society in Claire of the Sea Light. Like Ibi Zoboi, Danticat is a member of a new wave of Haitian writers that showcase the country in a way the world is not used to seeing. American and European media have consistently painted Haiti as a poor tragedy of a nation, torn apart in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Yet, Danticat’s portrayal of Haiti in Claire of the Sea Light does not describe a nation deserving of pity, but rather a wondrous and strange land of beauty and diversity. Both American Street and Claire of the Sea Light provide glimpses of Haitian culture through the lens of marvelous realism, weaving mystical elements from Haitian religion into a modern tale. In this article about Danticat’s novel, Cope argues that Danticat is able to provide readers with more insight into Haitian culture than the outside media ever could. Cope calls for more authors to investigate and write about Haiti in this way in order to change common perceptions and misconceptions of this country.

Cope, Robyn. “We are your Neighbors: Edwidge Danticat’s New Narrative for Haiti” Journal of Haitian Studies, vol. 23 no. 1, 2017, pp. 98-118. Project MUSE.

Learn more about: Novelistic Strategies of the Black Lives Matter Movement

This article by Vincent Haddad is about the various modern novels of the Black Lives Matter movement that capture the racial struggles African Americans face today. Haddad primarily focuses on the literary strategies Angie Thomas employs in The Hate U Give, a novel that centers on the journey of Starr Carter, a young black teenage woman, after she witnesses the death of her black friend, Khalil, at the hands of a white police officer. Such a story seems almost commonplace in today’s society, as there have been numerous headlines of young African American men shot and killed by white police officers, despite being unarmed. Ibi Zoboi even implements this narrative in the climax of American Street, when Fabiola finds Kasim dead in the streets, shot after attempting to flee from the Detroit police. Zoboi chooses to end her novel with Fabiola leaving Detroit, now in protests, rallying around Kasim’s name and wrongful death. Consequently, the author does not provide a resolution to the aftermath Kasim’s death and how it affected the city of Detroit. In contrast, The Hate U Give is a novel that begins with a young black man’s murder and centers on the ensuing societal aftershocks and the movement to fix the racial divisions described in the novel. Fabiola chose to leave these protests behind her at the end of American Street, whereas the protagonist of The Hate U Give, Starr Carter, becomes a political activist in the wake of her friend’s death. The parallels between Fabiola’s world and Starr’s are only highlighted by the similarities in racial issues underpinning their societies, and this article about The Hate U Give provides an excellent analysis of these political matters. 

Haddad, Vincent. “Nobody’s Protest Novel: Novelistic Strategies of the Black Lives Matter Movement.” The Comparatist, vol. 42, 2018, pp. 40-59. Project MUSE.

Learn more about: Dealing with Death and Expectations of the Survivor’s Story

In the novel “Farming Bones,”  Haitian-American writer Danticat discusses the survivor’s role in storytelling, tragedy in Haiti, and the connection of the living to the dead. This article by Norman, sparked by the ill-documented 1937 Haitian massacre, analyzes the story within the context of communicating with and for the dead, “the ultimate voiceless subjects,” and the context of what society expects from survivors of tragedy. American Street deals with similar concepts of Haitian-American reaction to tragedy, especially through Fabiola’s story and experience after the earthquake. She also has a complex connection to the dead and spirits, whom she relies on during the more trying portions of her experience. Additionally, Zoboi chooses to tell certain characters’ stories, those of Dray and Kasim posthumously, further developing the complex connection to voices after death. This article provides detailed further discussion of how such experiences are processed and written about in literature: how real Haitian-Americans relate to the matters of death and survival, and furthermore, the accuracy and integrity of how those relations are written about in literature. 

Norman, Brian. “The Survivor’s Dilemma in Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones.” Contemporary Women’s Writing, vol. 9, no. 3, Nov. 2015, pp. 401–415. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2016700390&site=ehost-live.

Learn more about:  African American and Haitian Relationships 

This essay analyzes the African American and Haitian relationships in Danticat’s novel, The Dew Breaker. In The Dew Breaker, the main character is a Haitian immigrant from Port au Prince who has entered the United States and an era of police brutality. Goldner dissects the commonalities and differences between the Haitian immigrants and non-immigrant African American characters in Danticat’s novel. Although they feel different from each other, police brutality and racism affects all of them the same, because people don’t see them as immigrants versus citizens but collectively as black. Throughout the novel, Danticat emphasizes that Haitians and African Americans should put aside their differences and focus on what they have in common, advising them to come together as a black community in the face of adversity. This article is an excellent choice for further reading on relationships between different black communities seen in American Street. The main character in The Dew Breaker is a Haitain immigrant from Port au Prince, as is Fabiola. Additionally, the relationships between characters in The Dew Breaker discussed in this article are similar to the relationship Fabiola has with her cousins. When she first arrives in Detroit, their relationship is strained because her cousins are unfamiliar with her culture and view her so differently from themselves. They make fun of her religion and view a lot of her mannerisms as silly. Over time, her cousins become more inclusive of her and even name her the “fourth bee” as she becomes more integrated into their family. Outside of the family unit, Fabiola also encounters difficulties fitting in with her African American peers, because her culture is so rarely seen in Detroit. A majority of the black community in Detroit abandoned their culture to become “more American” because Haitain culture invites additional racism, such as people making fun of vodou. Although the type of racism Fabiola experiences in the novel differs slightly from that of her cousins and peers, she eventually becomes friends with them as the characters realize they are not as different as they once seemed.

Goldner, Ellen J. “Ways of Listening: Hearing Danticat’s Calls to Multiple Audiences in The Dew Breaker.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, vol. 49, no. 2–3, Apr. 2018, pp. 149–178. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=mzh&AN=2018395047&site=ehost-live.

Learn more about: Exile and Trauma

In this article, Jennifer C. Rossi evaluates  Edwidge Danticat’s novel Breath, Eyes, Memory in terms of the topic of trauma. The article begins with detailed definitions of both exile and trauma in order to ground her forthcoming discussion of the two concepts’ interconnection. Danticat’s novel tells a coming of age story of a Haitian-American immigrant, Sophie, reunited with her mother upon her migration to New York. The reason her mother originally gave her up is that she was the product of rape. The article discusses the impact of rape as a salient form of trauma and the idea of disconnecting oneself from their past. Zoboi discusses the idea of trauma through the death of the three bee’s father, Donna’s trauma from domestic violence, and Fabiola’s briefly described experience with trauma and guilt following Kasim’s death. Rossi highlights Danticat’s treatment of the issue of trauma through a female, immigrant, youth perspective. The intricacies of these intersectional characteristics are relevant to the wider lens of Haitian-American literature as a whole.

Rossi, Jennifer C. “Let the Words Bring Wings to Our Feet: “Negotiating Exile and Trauma through Narrative in Danticat’s ‘Breath, Eyes, Memory.'” Obsidian III 6/7, 2005, pp. 203-220. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44511675.

Learn more about: Racial Tensions in Detroit

This article by Donald I. Warren discusses racial tensions in Detroit during the late 60’s in the midst of the Detroit Riots. He talks about blacks being treated as lower parts of society and how whites are isolated from black society just as much as blacks are isolated from white society. The crime rate and racial tensions are heavily spiked in black neighborhoods compared to white neighborhoods. Crossing through the wealthier white suburbs or the more dangerous black ghettos is strongly frowned upon by both sides, further cementing a divisive racial line in the city. These descriptions of Detroit are strikingly similar to how Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street, represents Detroit. When Fabiola is sent to Detroit to live with her cousins, she lives in a black neighborhood where drugs, gangs, and gun violence are commonplace.  On top of being treated like a lower class citizen for being Haitian, she is constantly surrounded by poor living conditions and crime that even roots directly back to her cousins. The neighborhood Fabiola grows up in is just another byproduct of the suburban isolation described in this article, further evidencing  just how serious of an issue this was and still is in Detroit.

Warren, Donald I. “Suburban Isolation and Race Tension: The Detroit Case.” Social Problems, vol. 17, no. 3, 1970, pp. 324–339., doi:10.1525/sp.1970.17.3.03a00040.



American Street‘s Homepage

Austin Maaddi, Jordan Tauber, Stephen Odgers & Tara Jensen, 2019

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