Thursday, September 9, 2010

Children's Book Finds Hope In Haiti's Rubble --

Eight Days: A Story of Haiti By Edwidge Danticat Illustrated by Alix Delinois
Hardcover, 32 pages Orchard Books - By a Youthful Author

Photograph of Edwidge Danticat by Nancy Crampton

This little book is an inspired and inspiring effort - a way of making some order out of the unthinkable and encouraging ourselves and our children to look for and bring light and love. (Suggest to your library or favorite bookstore)

NOTE: Already many stories of compassion and courage are emerging from young and older alike from the flood-devastated nation of Pakistan where the loss of life and so much more is expected to far surpass that of the unfathomable trials of New Orleans, Haiti and the major Tsunamis rolled into one. Look for similar efforts from the many talented Pakistani writers.

See Original Posting, an Excerpt and AUDIO (available at 9 am EST - New York Time)
here Also at these same URL's find the following NPR Stories:
Haitian Author Danticat Describes City Hit By Quake Jan. 16, 2010
Novelist Danticat Worried About Family In Haiti Jan. 13, 2010

When a massive earthquake struck Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people, it was almost impossible for grown-ups to avoid the tragic headlines.

Now, nine months later, Haitian-born author Edwidge Danticat has found a way to share the earthquake story with an audience that was largely shielded from it — children.

Danticat has written a children's book about a 7-year-old boy named Junior who gets buried in the rubble of his Haitian home during the quake and is rescued eight days later.

She tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer that she began writing the book, Eight Days: A Story of Haiti, in an effort to explain the ordeal to her 5-year-old daughter.

"When the earthquake first happened, my 5-year-old … kept asking us about her [Haitian grandmother]," Danticat says. "She eventually blurted out a question like, 'Is Grandma under her house?' "

She says that because she and her husband were so wrapped up in and worried about their Haitian family members, they didn't get around to answering their daughter's questions until now.

"I wrote this story to try to explain to her what had happened," Danticat says, "but also to find a kind of hopeful moment in it so it wasn't, at least to a child, all devastation."

Danticat's book opens with Junior's rescue eight days after the earthquake, then goes on to describe what he did during his eight days in the rubble...(some of this is make-believe)

"It's a mix of imagination, but also memory, because one of the things I kept wondering about the children [was] what kept them still — because I have two small children and they don't stay very still very long," Danticat says. "I was wondering what resources they would pull on, and that's how I came to this use of imagination for Junior."

Danticat says that while the book isn't intended for very young kids, it can be therapeutic for their older peers.

"I've read it to some children in Haiti and what I've seen when I've read it to different children is that a conversation begins, and we start talking openly about sad things," Danticat says, "not only the earthquake, but other things that sadden children."

She says she has found that there are a lot of Haitian children who can relate to the story of a little kid buried in darkness, not knowing if he'll be rescued.

It's a sad story, and it gets even gloomier on Junior's fifth day in the rubble when he imagines playing soccer with his friends. After the game they all sit down to rest, but Oscar — Junior's best friend — is tired and goes to sleep. He never wakes up after that.

"A lot of children were in that situation," Danticat says. "When I read it to this particular group of children in one of the camps, one of the little girls raised her hand and said, 'Come on, tell me straight: Did Oscar die or not?' And it's funny, especially in the midst of tragedy like this, children seeking directness and facing an adult that's trying to go around it. But for a lot of these children — even Haitian-American children who are removed from what happened — there's still the reality of lost loved ones and you can't pretend that it didn't happen."

Danticat says the book isn't based on one real story so much as it is derived from many, including that of Danticat's cousin — who was lost in the rubble along with his 10-year-old son.

Still, the author says that at its core, Eight Days is a hopeful story. Illustrated with the bright and colorful paintings of Alix Delinois, the book shows the countryside outside Port-au-Prince in the classic style of Haitian painting. It's a portrait of a pre-earthquake Haiti that's largely gone today — but that still survives in Haitian memory.

"When you live outside of the place where you were born, there is a tendency to idealize it," Danticat says of the lost Haiti.

"But what's great about memory, what's great about art," she says, "is that we can reinterpret and re-create and hopefully dream a better world."

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the U.S. with her family at the age of 12. She currently lives in New York.


Akhtar Wasim Dar said...

What a magical sentence:
”But what's great about memory, what's great about art," she says, "is that we can reinterpret and re-create and hopefully dream a better world."
and friend I think this is such a story which can be rightly used as therapeutic medium.

Faraz Haider said...

To tell children about the tragedy and then finding a way to do it so that it is not painful for them and yet they are able to connect with the tragedy and it's victims is a very difficult task.

And how extremely important in the times we live in (for there is tragedy in many parts of the world).

To teach and enable empathy in children will surely help them grow into fuller human beings.

Connie L. Nash said...

Faraz, I love your sentence: "To teach and enable empathy in children will surely help them grow into fuller human beings." and thanx also for your comment, friend Dar Sahib, which points out the way memory however tragic can be helped by art, with our loving intentions, to re-create and dream a better world.

Both of you are certainly the FULL human beings who can make and/or encourage such work. And Insha Allah, I shall be paying attention! :)