Friday, October 3, 2014

The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

Disabling prejudice

Edwidge Danticat 
     Edwidge Danticat, born in Haiti and raised in New York from the age of twelve, was an author to whom I’d paid little attention.  This was mainly because she was discovered young and promoted as part of Oprah’s Book Club.  Plus, she won or was nominated for a number of major literary awards.  At Meg’s yard sale a couple of years ago, I picked up an advance reader’s edition of The Dew Breaker (2004).  I let it sit around for
quite a while and then decided to read a number of books I’ve had for a while and clean some stuff out.

     From about the third page or so, I realized that Danticat is the real thing.  Her style quietly envelops the reader by keeping her syntax elegantly simple.  She sets up characters and locales as contemporary fairy tales.  From there, the diaspora situation resonates.  All of the characters in The Dew Breaker are either Haitian emigrants or a generation away.  

A Painting of Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier
     At first, I thought she was presenting only one family and its experiences in the United States decades after leaving home and how they’ve adjusted.  However, she presents a series of stories displaying different aspects of people who lived under Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier’s tyranny and how they escaped or dealt with it.  The narrative comes full circle, although it’s not a roundelay.  The dew breaker refers to a torturer and Danticat reveals at the end just how awful this one was.  It devastates.

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