Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, December 21, 2012

"Water Child" by Edwidge Danticat Project 196 Haiti

"Water Child" by Edwidge Danticat (2000, 11 pages)

Project 196

Country 6 of 196
Edwidge Danticat

  1. Georgia 
  2. Canada
  3. U. S. A.
  4. The Republic of Korea
  5. Antigua and Barbuda 
  6. Haiti
f you are an author and want to represent your country, please contact me.  If you want to do a guest post on your favorite story for the feature please contact me also.  

If you are a publisher that has an anthology that is done in the 196 spirit, please contact me as I will be spotlighting appropriate collections.  

At first I thought I was setting myself an impossible task but a bit of research has made me optimistic  that I can find a short story from all 196 countries in the world.   I feel this part of the project will be completed.

I also want, and maybe this is crazy, to publish a short story, over the next 196 weeks from a writer in each 196 countries. 

Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world.   The population is about ten million.  The official language is French with Haitian creole being the most commonly spoken language.  Almost all of the population are descendants of slaves imported to work the sugar plantations.  It has been an independent country since 1804 but for long periods was under the domination of the United States.

Like our writer from Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica Kincaid, Edwidge Danticat is an immigrant who made her writing name and fortune in New York City with the aid of The New Yorker.  Born in 1969 in Purt au Prince, Haiti.   Her initial schooling was in French though she spoke Creole at home.   She along with her mother moved to New York City when she was twelve  her father had already been there for ten years.   As a teenager she felt alone in her new environment so she turned to reading and then writing as her escape.  In her late teens she began to get stories accepted for publication.  She graduated from the elite Bernard's College with a major in French.   She has gone on to win many awards for her books.   Her novel, Breath, Eye, Memory about a 12 year old girl who moves from a very small town in Haiti to New York City was an Oprah Book Club selection.

"Water Child", originally published in The New Yorker and reprinted in one of their anthologies, is the first work by Danticat I have read.   It is about a nurse who moved  from Haiti to New York City decades ago.    In away it is another story about the immigrant experience and is a very good exemplar of that, but it is on a deeper level a story about failures to communicate with others and more importantly with yourself.   She sends half of her income home to her parents in Haiti.  The letter opens with a very moving letter from her mother.  The nurse used to call her parents every week but she has not called in three months and they are worried.   Her mother express thanks for the very badly needed money, tells her that her dad is in poor health, as is normal, and ask her if she has a man in her life.   These letters are the nurse's life line but they somehow also torture her   She is very aloof and standoffish at the hospital, having and wanting no friends there.   Her ward at the hospital deals with a lot of people who have to have their voice boxes removed and she tries to help them with the trauma of never being able to speak again.  

At first she seems to lead a simple, very unselfish and lonely life.  Her apartment is full of books.   Then we find she has had an affair with a married man, also, a Haitian immigrant.   Here we see the woman does not understand the basics of her own life and/or she has a very selfish side as she wants to tell the wife of the man about their relationship while the man seems to want to be shed of her.   We don't know if she wants to do this to hurt the man and his wife or if she does not see the man is no doubt just using her for sex.

"Water Child" shows a lot of psychological depth and is beautifully written.  For sure I hope to read more of her work in the future.

Mel u


Caroline said...

I haven't read this story but one of her novels and an anthology and find her a great writer. I'd like to read her memoir "Brother I'm Dying" next. I've read such good things about it.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

What an ambitious project! And good for you for including Caribbean countries on your list, as they tend to get quite overlooked. I'm a big fan of both Jamaica Kincaid and Edwidge Danticat, though I admit I don't think I know the short story you reviewed, so I"ll have to take a look for it.