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Brock University
Shannon Mac Rae

Breath, Eyes, Memory February 5 , 2013: Lecture 3 Essay due: - February 12 in class hard copy in order to receive feedback - February 20 if you’re happy with just a number grade Edwidge Danticat • 1969- 42/43 years old – super young author like Adichie • Born in Haiti, father immigrates first, mother second and she is left behind immigrated to United States at age 12 • Brother named Eliab – just like the boy in the book • ‘‘My primary feeling the whole first year was one of loss. Loss of my childhood, and of the people I'd left behind—and also of being lost. It was like being a baby—learning everything for the first time.’’ (Publishers Weekly) - Moving from one country to another creates sense of leaving things behind - Primary language is French and Creole, so she is at a loss here once again - She was right in the midst of maturation while having to deal with her loss - Pg. 66  When Sophie talks about how she came to understand English. She feels left out because she is of the minority in the USA. • BEM selected as Oprah book club book in 1998 - guaranteed millions of dollars of profit for the author and publisher. • Many interviews with Danticat on YouTube • Was often interviewed on television in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake in 2010 - She lost parts of her family in this tragedy • This novel can’t be taken as apprehension for every Haitian Woman’s life Haiti of Breath, Eyes, Memory • Colonial space • Haiti and the Dominican Republic occupy the same island - Dominican has become tourist economy, Haiti not so much - Prior to the earthquake and after, Haiti is enormously poor • Island was occupied by France and Spain—eventually France takes control of what is now Haiti and Spain takes control of what is now the Dominican Republic • Colonists imported slaves to work sugar cane plantations • French colonists often took sexual advantage of slave women, resulting in a “mixed race” - Difference in ‘colonized’ and ‘colonizer’ - Slave women are sexually taken advantage (pressure) of as opposed to ‘rape’ because slave women would give their consent to sex in order to eat or not be beaten - many carry French surnames - there is no ‘pure’ Haitian race • In 1792, France abolishes slavery on the island • Napoleon attempts to restore slavery in 1802, population revolts - Haiti is one of the only countries in the world that can say of its history that it springs from a slave revolt • United States occupies Haiti in 1915 and stays until 1934 (sugar and cotton, Cacos uprising) - A Canadian vacationer by chance finds a copy of the original declaration of independence for Haiti in the library - Sophie’s last name is a huge connection to history by Danticat: Caco (family who tempted to resist American restoration/control of the Haitian space) • 1957-1968, Duvalier family, Papa Doc and Baby Doc - Haitian families - Come into power in illegitimate means - When foreign cameras were turned off, they led a country where an enormous amount of people were massacred • Papa Doc establishes the Tonton Macoutes - Para-military organization, a group of men with a lot of firepower - Papa Doc was the founder and they became his right arm • Could kill, rape or steal without repercussions • See and-other-crimes-by-duvalier.html • Can’t assume that Sophie’s story happened to all women, however, it is not out of the ordinary for these types of things to happen to Haitian women Breath, Eyes, Memory • The Haitian context is important to the text - We don’t get any of the stories of the Ton Ton macoutes, or of the actual rapist, they just haunt the text and stories of the raped • Papa Doc, Baby Doc and the Tonton Macoutes are male force - Presented in the text - The only face of Haiti that would be seen … Haitian women were largely invisible, you would only see Ton ton’s raiding stores, not the actual community - This text restored that. • Matriarchal culture - Patriarchy is the one that is controlled - Matriarchal because of the absence of fathers due to the fact that a lot of children are created due to their mothers being raped - a whole world where dads don’t really exist - Domestic sphere: Grammas, Mothers, Sisters, etc. They may not be able to have power in society and authority in the real world, but the authority in their homes is matriarchal (Sophie is raised in this society) • Danticat uses text to present the matriarchal culture of Haiti in opposition to what “others” know of Haiti - This culture is absent to what others know of Haiti (political, colonialism, etc.) Weren’t many stories about the power women in Haiti had in terms of mothering and forming the new generations? They were the domestic anchors on what the actual country ran. - The mother’s rape, Adie not being able to read, they have to hide when the Ton Ton’s raid Louise’s stall (we only see a brief look at the men’s side) • Significance of the Caco name • Oral Tradition (Pan-African oral traditions; female nature of oral storytelling) - Even though it's a printed and written
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