Claire of the Sea Light: Reading is Hard Right Now; Danticat is Excellent

In a deep reading funk I asked M. what to read and she suggested anything by Edwidge Danticat. And it’s proof that you can think you know things about books and yet the world is so full of incredible authors and miraculous stories that you just… don’t know anything [generalizable lesson here for me on the hubris of claiming to know things about books]. Because I’d never heard of Danticat before (my failure) and Claire of the Sea Light is excellent and so I’ve ordered more and am eager.

Claire of the Sea Light opens with the story of Claire and her father (her mother died in childbirth) and how Claire’s birth and birthday is twinned with death. From there the book weaves characters and their relationship to their parents or parenting, to truth (and the risks of telling it) and to what it means to be family. There’s a fairytale quality to the writing and similar tropes of fables: orphaned or abandoned children, the lure of the woods/the sea and the perils of trusting others (particularly single women WHO MIGHT BE WITCHES). But it’s decidedly of the here and now with the politics of Haiti a backdrop for the impossible choices characters are asked to make in the service of their children.

I should add that I also ordered one of Danticat’s books for children, My Mommy Medicine, which R. said was “pretty okay.” So if you’re not down for a whole novel right now you can get a sense of Danticat from a picture book.


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