50 Books by Authors of Color: Book 11
Title: The Farming of Bones
Author: Edwidge Danticat
Danticat does a magnificent job of capturing horror and hope in her book The Farming of Bones. The title is gruesome, but refers to the cutting of sugar cane. The story follows a Haitian servant named Amabelle, who lives on the Dominican side of the island of Hispaniola. Amabelle lost her parents several years before the book takes place, they drown during a rainstorm while attempting to cross the Massacre river. Her only family is the one she works for as well as Sebastien Onious, her lover, and his sister Mimi. The year is 1937, the 7th year of the era of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo Molina, the cruel dictator over the Dominican Republic.
Rumors start to spread in the small town of Alegria of soldiers murdering Haitians, but Amabelle ignores them, until at the urgency of a priest she Sebastien and Mimi agree to flee to the Haitian side of the border. Trujillo’s forces find out about the Priests’ actions to save Haitians and they arrest the Priests’ and capture all of the Haitians. During all of this Amabelle is separated from Sebastien and Mimi. Amabelle sets out to find them with Yves, another Haitian living in Alegria. Together they manage to cross the Massacre river, but not all who travel with them are so lucky. Their fate rests on the pronunciation of parsley, perejil in Spanish. Many Haitians could not pronounce the r in the word and instead use the Kreyol word, “pesi”. Soldiers would hold up sprigs of parsley and as those thought to be Haitian what it was. Perejil and you live, Pesi and you die.
Danticat does an excellent job of describing the horror of the Haitian Massacre of 1937 as well as the deep hope that those we love survived murder. She does not try to explain why Trujillo ordered so many people murdered, instead she gives some of the rumored reasons, with the unstated truth remaining: that no reason anyone could give would justify the loss of so many people. As always her combination of Kreyol, Spanish and English give homage to her roots and give her characters depth and feeling.
Overall Rating: 5/5 almost as good as Krik? Krak! Almost.