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“The Farming of
Bones” is Edwidge Danticat’s novel about Amabelle Desir, a Haitian migrant in
the Dominican Republic during the 1937 Haitian massacre. It is extremely
heartbreaking and beautiful. More than anything, it’s an exploration of grief,
of how loss can define the concept of people’s lives. It is also an
investigation of the idea of borders, of how a particular river can divide one country from another, and the
living from the dead. Amabelle is familiar to that border, the dividing river.
She exists as the river does, in a half-life between Haiti and the
Dominican Republic, between life and death. And the author tells us something
history should have already taught us: at borders, there are only stories of

Since the
beginning of her career, Edwidge Danticat’s works have demonstrated and exposed
the multiple facets of the lives of Haitian people to her readers. Her fiction
and non-fiction print work, documentaries via collaborations with other
activists, and her own political activism also work to reveal the general lack
of awareness about the complex histories, culture, socioeconomic and political
experiences of this group of people who inhabited an island less than 700 miles
from the American east coast. As a result, over the last two decades, Danticat
has proved to be an important and powerful voice within and for the Haitian
community. Her works have received multiple accolades not only from the Haitian
community but from the national and global community, including the National
Book Award and the MacArthur Fellows Genius Grant. Danticat focuses on the
treatment of Haitians abroad and in Haiti itself, where political and economic
growth and development improves at a glacial pace. Haiti’s rich history stands
in stark juxtaposition to contemporary economic and political realities.
Danticat’s ability to capture this paradox gives a timeless quality to her
works. Danticat’s body of work, in its ability to depict the beauty and
ugliness of Haitian culture, consistently challenges readers to enter a role of
responsibility and raises the question: 2 should readers get involved? Should
they do something to address the injustices brought about by history, memory,
color, race, and class issues plaguing Haitians?

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Moving to the
United States at the age of 12 from her native Haiti, undoubtedly had an effect
on Danticat’s writing and how she views the world and the treatment of
Haitians. In a 2004 interview, when asked about the lack of news exposure about
Haiti and the tendency to reduce such complexities to sound bites, Danticat
stated, “People think that there is a country where…these people are only
around when they are on CNN…at moments when there’s not a coup, when there are
not people in the streets, … the country disappears from people’s
consciousness” (The Morning News). Haiti is usually only presented to the
global audience to show the effects that disasters have had on the country,
whether they are natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or political turmoil.
Danticat’s works can be seen as a vehicle the author uses to get readers and
listeners to “see” Haitian people beyond these moments.

exposure shows both the beauty and the ugliness of Haitian experiences, a
balancing approach not regularly covered by Haiti’s often one-sided portrayal
in the media through its disasters. In her book Create Dangerously, Danticat
questions what it means to be an immigrant writer and what it means to “create
dangerously” in this journey of revealing and uncovering hidden realities. She
concurs with the French philosopher, Albert Camus, and poet Osip Mandelstam,
that creating dangerously “is creating as a revolt against silence, creating
when both the creation and the reception, the writing and the reading, are
dangerous undertakings, disobedience to a directive” (11). Danticat essentially
creates dangerously with the subject matter of her novels, the articles
written, the interviews given, and the documentaries she has chosen to narrate,
all of which work against the grain and challenge readers to re-see Haiti, not
as a site of normalized disaster, but to engage the country in all of its
complexities as a place which necessitates global social justice. Danticat has
spoken publicly about a number of Haitian related concerns, including the role of
women in Haitian society, Haiti’s involvement in the global economy and
political struggles before and after the disastrous earthquake in 2010, and,
the racist and unequal immigration policies adopted against Haitians throughout
the Haitian diaspora. In the 2009 documentary Poto Mitan, for example, as the
writer and narrator, she braids a story about the connection between a
grandmother, a daughter and a grandchild against the documentary’s depictions
of the struggle for Haitian women to become educated and self-sufficient in a
global economy that exploits Haitian labor for profits. The central narrative
depicts Haitian women and their treatment by fellow Haitians and foreign
factory owners. The film urges its viewers to consider the cost of the goods
they consume which are produced in countries like Haiti against the wages,
sacrifices, and exploitative conditions of the very people who produce them. In
addition, Danticat has also written articles to express concerns about what can
be done for Haitians in the years following the 2010 earthquake. She has
written a fictional children’s book and has given multiple interviews about the
earthquake all to remind readers that the people affected by the earthquake and
their issues are still salient and relevant. Their stories and their struggles
have not come to an end, as the earthquake has had residual, long-lasting
effects on their lives. These conditions and experiences contribute to the
continued influx of Haitians immigrating to other places, such as the United
States, where Haitian people are often met with further injustices.

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