Melissa's Reviews > Breath, Eyes, Memory

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
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's review
Mar 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: annotated-bibliography, general-fiction
Read in October, 2009

This novel of multiple generations of Haitian women can be read as a rebellion against the sexual oppression of women in that culture both by men and by other women. As the story’s main character, Sophie, struggles to understand the women who raise her -- her aunt, her mother, and to an extent, her grandmother, she is forced also to confront the fact that she was born after her mother was raped by a stranger (probably a member of a political gang, a so-called macoute), and also the tradition of “testing” engaged in by many Haitian mothers (regularly checking their daughter’s hymen to be sure it is intact). In the end, Sophie makes great strides in overcoming all of these experiences, and is beginning to take control of her own life.

As is the case for all Danticat novels, the characters are rich, and the twists and turns of the storyline captivating. A story of the struggle of living between cultures, and being tugged at by various family members.

Oh, so many. It's a very sophisticated book in political, emotional, and literary terms. It is painful to read because of the violence and sorrow that it depicts, and difficult to read because of the difficult language.

Conference questions:
Well, I'd hesitate to give it to most readers as independent reading, but if I did, I would ask about Sophie and her relationship to Haitian culture, about what the author says about how women are treated in Haiti, about whether it's men or women (or both) who oppress women, and most of all, what they think of all this, whether it is similar or dissimilar to their own cultures. I would also ask how America is depicted in the book. Is there a stark Haiti/ America contrast? What is the place of race in the book? [Note: the questions are sophisticated because the reader would have to be for me to recommend the book!]

Student in mind: Only the most mature, strongest readers. Certainly girls interested in issues of sexuality. (Wait, who isn't?) I don't think most of my 9th graders would be able to appreciate it, but perhaps I am underestimating them. Shaina or Aniyah?

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