Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mayra's & Dickson's book reviews

Breath, Eyes, Memory
By Edwidge Danticat
Review by Mayra Esparza
April 19, 2011
I’ve never been to Haiti and I never realized how much women suffered because they didn’t have a voice, Novelist Edwidge Danticat made me feel like I was part of every situation throughout her whole novel. The story shows how each character suffers in different ways but each of those obstacles makes them stronger.

Danticat’s voice made me like this book a lot. Her voice was very clear and it showed that she knew what she was talking about. The topics she talks about in her novel really focuses on ways that women suffer but women tend to not talk about them. She helps bring a voice to women who tend to be voiceless.  The way she described each situation made me feel like I was part of the novel. I would get butterflies just by her details. I would put myself in one of the character’s shoes and I would get goosebumps because I didn’t know what I would do if I was going through the same exact obstacles they were going through.

A little girl, Sophie, lives with her aunt Atie for twelve years. After those twelve years, she has to move to New York with her mother, Martine. Once Sophie moves to New York, she faces getting tested weekly to see if she is still a virgin, she encounters rape, moving away, getting married, sexual intercourse, and dealing with her mother’s nightmares. The obstacles and solutions these voiceless women encounter in Breath, Eyes, Memory will make you not want to put the book down.

Sophie, Martine, and Atie all go through tough obstacles in their lifetime. Reading about each of their obstacle made me sad because I cannot imagine myself or one of my loved ones having to go through those obstacles. It would break my heart. It hurts me to know that many women in this world are going or have been through one of those obstacles but stay quiet about it. To me it seems like they might be scared of what people will say or think about them.

Martine was raped at a very young age. Unfortunately, that was how Sophie was conceived. Martine would have nightmares of her rapist and she was never the same after she got raped. The nightmares came almost every night. She would wake up yelling, crying and even sweating. When Sophie moved with her, she met a guy, Joseph, who she really liked. She would spend a lot of her time hanging out with him. Martine caught her coming home late so she began testing her weekly to make sure she was still a virgin. Sophie didn’t want that to happen so she raped herself with a pestle. Sophie wasn’t the same after that incident. When she would have sexual relationships with her husband, she thought the worst of herself and would try holding back her tears. Both Martine and Sophie didn’t talk about it, it seemed like they kept this issue to themselves.

These days, there are still women who get raped and many still don’t talk about it. Many women are in denial of what happened and tend to blame themselves so they keep it bottled up inside. Talking about rape is one of the hardest topics for women. I feel that when women bottle up this trauma they tend to enter depression. Once they have entered depression they risk the chance of entering an eating disorder and thinking suicidal thoughts. Like Martine, some have nightmares about this horrible experience for most of their lives.

From personal experience, almost being a rape victim, I entered depression. I can say that I had an eating disorder, I would think of suicide, and I blamed myself for what happened. I felt like I would never be able to trust anybody; thus led me to keep it bottled up. I was voiceless. I felt ashamed. I feel like women need more support to be able to talk about this traumatizing experience. Women should find the strength to talk about it with someone because it is the biggest step towards the healing process. Although opening up to someone and describing what happened is a very hard step a woman needs to take.

It seems like Danticat is telling her story in Breath, Eyes, Memory. She is showing how she was voiceless and after many years she was able find her voice and share it with everyone. I feel like the biggest theme of this novel is voiceless women. Danticat really shows throughout her novel how women do not speak up and until this day it has not really changed. She shows how women tend to fear having a voice in this world. That’s why everything in Breath, Eyes, Memory all seems very true.

Breath, Eyes, Memory is filled with many different characters. Some of the characters, i.e. Marc and Joseph, are very helpful and understanding. They try helping Sophie and Martine as much as possible to overcome their fear. They try showing Sophie and Martine that they are safe with them. Everyone needs a friend no matter how they are or what they do. Every single person in this world needs at least one person to lean on especially when times get rough and you feel like there is no way out.

Even though this novel was written a couple years ago, most of these situations that Sophie, Martine, and Atie go through are still happening in today’s world. They are happening in any town or city where women tend to stay quiet about what they go through.

In this world, every woman should have the courage and strength to be able to speak her mind and be able to live her life without fear, shame or guilt. But if you want to know what happens to Sophie, Martine, Atie, and the rest of the people who are part of Breath, Eyes, Memory, you’ll have to read the book!

Breath, Eyes, Memory

by Edwidge Danticat
Review by Dickson Hong

      I had no idea about Haitian culture, but novelist Edwidge Danticat made me realize how a traditional Haitian family lives and the problems that are caused by the family. The story Breath, Eyes, Memory is told by a Haitian girl, Sophie who grows up in a traditional Haitian family. She moves to New York when she is thirteen years old. She encounters many problems in a traditional Haitian family.
      Sophie grows up with her aunt Tante Atie before she moves to New York. She has never seen her mother and has no idea about her mother. The only thing she knows about her mother is the photo on the night table by aunt Atie’s bed. She regards Tante Atie as her mother. She even makes a card for Tante on Mother’s Day. In the card, she writes that, “My mother is a daffodil, limber and strong as one. My mother is a daffodil, but in the wind, iron strong.” When she has to move to New York, she is reluctant to leave aunt Atie. I can feel that the relationship between Sophie and aunt Atie is very deep. This is also the reason why Sophie doesn’t want to leave aunt Atie, and she goes far away to New York to meet her real mother who she has never seen. It is very hard for Sophie to leave aunt Atie. When Sophie arrives in New York, she encounters other problems. One of the problems is racial discrimination. She is discriminated by the public school students. They call her “boat people” and “stinking Haitians.” In the story, you can know how strong the racial discrimination is in New York. 
        Besides the racial discrimination, she also needs to face the truth of her birth. When Sophie is thirteen years old, her mother, Martine tells Sophie that she was raped and she had Sophie. She doesn’t care that Sophie is too young to know the truth. It hurts the emotion of Sophie, but she bravely accepts the truth. In contrast, Matine couldn’t evade the pain of the rape. She decides to commit suicide to stop the pain in her heart. In this event, I can learn that it has a lot of different decisions and the effect depends on the choice that you choose.
      When she meets her husband Joseph, she starts to be “tested” by her mother. Sophie needs to be checked by her mother for keeping her virginity. The “test” is a traditional rule in some families. Her mother and aunt Atie start to be “tested” by grandme Ife, when they were teenagers. They feel ashamed and hate the “test”. They don’t want to be “tested”, but they aren’t able to refuse. Although the purpose of the tradition is keeping the girls pure, it doesn’t respect the human right of the girls. 
       In the novel, Danticat describes the unfair treatment between male and female in Haiti. It makes me realize that the value of male and female are different in Haiti. In a part of the story, Sophie and her grandmother grandme Ife are having dinner and talking the birth of the baby. They look at the shack on the hill, and grandme Ife explains the treatment between different gender babies. Grandme Ife says that, “If it is a boy, the lantern will be put outside the shack. If there is a man, he will stay awake all night with the new child.” Then, she talks about the girl, “If it is a girl, the midwife will cut the child’s cord and go home. Only the mother will be left in the darkness to hold her child. There will be no lamps, no candles, no more light.” It makes me believe that Haitian regards the male as more important than the female. I also find that Haiti is a patriarchal society and the sex discrimination of the tradition and the religion are too strong in this country. The women can’t have the same treatment as the men. They can’t be treated better than men, and they can’t also be as free as the men.
      In the novel, I can see a lot of different types of voicelessness that are caused by the different reasons in the society, such as tradition, religion, violence, patriarchy, and society’s oppression.

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