books, Reading, Women Writers

Women Writers Who Inspire

In the wake of ever-present stupidity, misogyny, and regrettable sound bites in the media (Talese and Trump alone give fodder to a palimpsest of rants in my head), I thought it fitting to offer a celebratory missive. Half-way through my Year of Reading Women, I reflect on the women writers who have inspired my lifelong love of reading and who continue to fan the flames of my bibliophila.

Women for All Ages: Madeline L’Engle, Kate DiCamillo, Beverly Cleary, Sara Pennypacker

Women for All Times: Dorothy Parker, Kate Chopin, Toni Morrison

Women who Broaden Your Mind: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri, Geraldine Brooks, Zadie Smith, Rebecca Solnit

Women who Touch Your Heart: Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, Bernice L. McFadden, Jane Smiley, Edwidge Danticat

Women who Foretell a Bright Future: Valeria Luiselli, Sara Novic, Lisa McInerney, Cynthia Bond, Rachel Elliott

Link to the Guardian article here


Black history, books, Reading, Women Writers

Edwidge Danticat’s “the farming of bones”

Edwidge Danticat writes with sophistication beyond her years and wmediumith an ethereal beauty. It is unbelievable to me that someone can produce works of such maturity and grace as “Breath, Eyes, Memory” and “the farming of bones” before the age of 30.

In “the farming of bones” Danticat takes her readers to the other side of her native island of Hispaniola, laying bare the oppression and desperation of Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic of the 1930s. Here she explores the trials of a servant class, the violence implicit to the work of migrant cane harvesters, and the pervasive trauma of refugees. Peopled by characters whose voices are all but snuffed out, this novel eloquently captures the human need for a voice.

“Taking turns, they exchanged tales quickly, the haste in their voices sometimes blurring the words, for greater than their desire to be heard was the hunger to tell. One could hear it in the fervor of the declarations, the obscenities shouted when something could
not be remembered fast enough, when a stutter allowed another speaker to race into his own account without the stutterer having completed his.”

These voiceless immigrants, too, face prejudice and exclusion that is frighteningly familiar to today’s political rhetoric.

“‘I pushed my son out of my body here, in this country,’ one woman said in a mix of Alegrian Kreyol and Spanish, the tangled language of those who aways stuttered as they spoke, caught as they were on the narrow ridge between two nearly native tongues. ‘My mother too pushed me out of her body here. Not me, not my son, not one of us has ever seen the other side of the border. Still they won’t put our birth papers in our palms so my son can have knowledge placed into his head by a proper educator in a proper school.”

But “the farming of bones” isn’t just a story of political turmoil and class struggle. It is a love story full of a passion that brings heat to the cheeks of the reader, not out of modesty or embarrassment, but out of empathy because of how exquisitely Danticat writes. The protagonist Amabelle feels an intense, once in a lifetime chemistry with her lover; “For some, passion is the gift of a ring in a church ceremony, the bearing of children as shared property. For me it was just a smile I couldn’t help, tugging at the sides of my face.” Her connection to Sebastian cuts to her core:

“I’m afraid to be shy, distant, and cold. I am afraid I cease to exist when he’s not there. I’m like one of those sea stones that sucks its colors inside and loses its translucence once it’s taken out into the sun, out of the froth of the waves. When he’s not there, I’m afraid I know no one and no one knows me.”

This work is a braid of timeless romance and (unfortunately) timeless struggle. It is, like her earlier work, a gift to breath, eyes, and memory. Danticat is a force to be reckoned with and hopefully one who continues to write for many years to come.