By Nina Inman, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, October 26th, Edwidge Danticat presented a reading as part of the Bryn Mawr Creative Writing Program Reading Series. For more than thirty years, the reading series has brought various accomplished writers to Bryn Mawr. Danticat’s visit continued this tradition.
Danticat’s readings were framed around the current disaster in Haiti. Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti on Oct. 4th, and the nation continues to struggle with the effects. Danticat pointed out that destruction of livestock and crops will make living in the already impoverished country even more difficult.
The author also spoke on the Haitian cholera outbreak, which was carelessly caused by doctors and other peace workers while providing humanitarian aid during the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and then further exacerbated by Hurricane Matthew. She connected the outbreak to slavery, the United State’s occupation of the Dominican Republic and America’s role in the creation of suffering worldwide.
The death and sadness created by the two natural disasters, her personal experience and American occupation of numerous South American nations led Danticat to select readings from her works, Claire By the Sealight, Farming of Bones, Create Dangerously and a currently unpublished memoir, The Art of Death. In these works, she explores the idea of bearing witness to events both sad and beautiful and learning how to honor and remember them.
Danticat explained the Haitian tradition of honoring someone a year and a day after their death. Some believe that when an individual dies, “the souls of the newly dead slip into rivers and streams and remain there, under the water, for a year and a day. Then, lured by ritual prayer and song, the souls emerge from the water and the spirits are reborn.
She discussed the year and a day tradition in reference to her mother and those who died in Haiti as a result of the hurricane and earthquake, as well as American occupation of the Dominican Republic and other South American nations. “It is unbelievable how horrors repeat themselves,” Ms. Danticat said, outraged by the amount of suffering that takes place in the world.
Finishing her readings, Ms. Danticat recognized the difficulty of thinking about such heavy topics and urged the audience to do its best to provide humanitarian aid to those currently suffering in Haiti.