Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Elida's book review

Elida Flores
English 103

Breath, Eyes, Memory
By Edwidge Danticat
Review by Elida Flores

In the book Breathe, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat gives a voice to a girl named Sophie. In fact, in the novel, Danticat gives a voice to immigrants and women all around the world. At age 12, Sophie, a Haitian, immigrates to New York to live with her mother Martine, who left her in Haiti with her sister Tante Atie as a baby. Sophie discovers the reality of an immigrant. She is faced with discrimination, harassment, pain and depression.

Tante Atie raised Sophie as if she was her own child. Sophie spent her first twelve years of her life in Haiti. Sophie is aware that her mother is in New York because her mother, Martine, would send them money and a cassette saying how she is and asking how all of them were doing. After hearing the news that Sophie would be going to New York to live with her mother, Sophie quickly becomes sad to leave Tante Atie. Tante Atie is like a mother to Sophie, she has not met Martine, just sees her pictures. I admire Sophie for being so understanding in the situation. Not many twelve year old girls would leave their country to live with a woman they have not met even though the woman is their mother.

When Sophie arrives in New York her mother shows her around the neighborhood and informs what she can expect in school. Sophie learns that kids at school are racist and harsh to immigrants. It is tough for an immigrant to deal with a new country let alone face racial prejudice. The kids at school make fun of Haitians, saying they have aids, are homosexuals and Heroin addicts. Sophie also learns about her mother’s past. She learns that her mother is a rape victim and that was how she got pregnant. Martine has nightmares and some psychological problems because of it. She never seeks help; she just works and gets by each day that way.

At the age of eighteen, Sophie falls in love. She falls in love with her neighbor. His name is Joseph and he is a musician and he is much older than her. For that reason Sophie hides her relationship with him from her mother because she knows her mom will not approve and Sophie is too in love to stay away from him. Sophie’s mother soon finds out that Sophie is dating Joseph that is when Martine starts to test Sophie to keep her pure. Sophie hates that her mother is testing her; in reaction she takes her own purity away in a harsh way. Sophie fails her last purity test and her mother, in anger, kicks her out. Sophie goes to Joseph and both happily got together.

Years later Sophie has a baby girl name Brigitte. She takes her daughter to Haiti to meet her Tante Atie and grandmother. There Sophie learns about the traditions in Haiti. Purity test has been a tradition in Haiti for a long time. Purity test is to prevent girls from losing their purity before marriage. Men in Haiti want their wives to be pure when they marry. A husband can shame a mother’s family if her daughter, his wife, is not pure. In a lot of cultures women purity is what men look for when they look for a wife.

Martine goes to Haiti to arrange her mother’s funeral. She meets again with Sophie since the day she made her leave her house. They talk like adults and try their best to be friends. Martine wants to start over with Sophie and begin a new relationship. Martine apologizes for being the way she was to Sophie. Since the two decide to be friends they talk about their issues. Sophie tells Martine that she has bulimia. And Martine tells Sophie how she used to have breast cancer. Sophie left back to New York with Martine and her daughter Brigitte. When they arrive Sophie stays for a night in Martine’s house. She sees her mother still has nightmares at night and is in a worst condition. Martine finally admits to Sophie that she is pregnant by her boyfriend, Marc. Martine is not happy to be pregnant instead she is terrified. She does not want to marry Marc who is a nice lawyer.

Sophie noticed that her mother is ill. She needs to talk to a professional but Martine refuses. She is afraid to be seen as a crazy woman then be locked up in a mental institute. Martine makes the decision to abort the baby. That night Sophie gets a call from Marc, he tells her that Martine stabbed herself in the stomach 17 times. Her body was sent to Haiti to be buried. Sophie went to Haiti and explains what has happened to her Tante Atie and grandmother. They tell her now that her mother is dead Sophie will live more in peace and free.

Although not all of the details are nonfiction, in reality many people have stories similar to this. Danticat did a good job to write about different issues women face, not only women but also immigrant issues. Danticat gave all the women in the novel a voice and their issues are different examples of the reality that many women have faced and still do to this day. That is why I enjoyed reading this book, Breath, Eyes, Memory. I recommend this book; it will open your eyes and you will see the reality of many women.

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