Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Friday, April 29, 2011

Nancy's and Carl's book reviews

Nancy Ramos
April 4, 2011
English 103 8:10 – 10:20

Breath, Eyes, and Memory

In the novel, Breath, Eyes, and Memory, by Edwidge Danticat, the book speaks of relationships, heritage and real life events that are traumatic. It tells a story of a twelve-year-old girl named Sophie who leaves her country Haiti and also leaves behind her aunt that she has come to know as her mother. She leaves her to go to New York to be with her biological mother. As the story continues the author, Edwidge Danticat, unfolds her own memories of the sorrow and beauty of Haiti. During the time that Sophie is in America with her mother, her life makes a complete turn and becomes more difficult than it was in Haiti. Sophie discovers that she was an accident; she was a product of rape, and the traumatic event still haunts her mother in her sleep. This will change Sophie’s life forever.

During Sophie’s childhood, she spends her time in Haiti with the care of her aunt not knowing anything about her mother. The only memory that Sophie has of her mother is a picture to prove that she has a mother. The young girl’s aunt and her have a good connection. They are practically mother and daughter themselves ever since Sophie’s birth mother left her.

As the story went on with the two relationships, it filled me with frustration and irritation to know that the birth mother wanted to see her child after twelve years. It irritated and frustrated me because Sophie and her aunt had a strong connection. It was too strong for them to be separated by someone who hadn’t been in Sophie’s life for twelve years. Once a child has a motherly connection with someone, even if they are not the biological mother, they should still be in contact and maintain that relationship.

Martine, the mother, deals with psychological issues because of the rape that occurred to her at a young age in Haiti. She also deals with the testing of her purity by her own mother. Her mother dealt with these issues in her life and it is because of that the relationship between mother and daughter is filled with tension. This affects Sophie because she is torn from her own culture and beliefs. Sophie rips her own hymen so that her mother would think that she is no longer a virgin and the testing would stop. This is a perfect example of how traumatizing testing can be for a young girl. I feel that this is a sense of molestation.

Later on Sophie begins to fall in love with a musician named Joseph. When her mother finds out about the relationship they have behind her mother’s back, the mother doesn’t accept their relationship. Sophie then decides to leave her mother’s home and start a new life with Joseph. Sophie also doubles when she makes love to Joseph like her mother does. To commit to her duties as a wife, Sophie gives birth to her child and decides not to make the same mistakes as her mother did to Sophie. Sophie feels that she shouldn’t incorporate her childhood experiences to her daughter because she knows it would be traumatizing. Sophie wants to raise Bridget, her daughter, a different way than she had been raised. She wants Bridget to know where she came from and to know her culture but not to go through the same hardships that she had endured while she was growing up. Sophie is an exception of parents because usually parents tend to raise their child in the same manner that they had been raised.

This book if full of surprises and it kept my interest on every page. The heartbreaking detail and life that Sophie endures was traumatizing for me I could not imagine living it as Sophie did. It is an inspiring story of culture and identity. I feel that this book opens my eyes to a different view on cultures and the way kids are treated because of their heritage. This book makes me want to learn about other cultures and it makes me want to be more active with everyday life.

Carl Darke
eng 103
Book review: Breath, Eyes, Memory

In the book Breath, Eyes, Memory, we get to follow a young girl named Sophie on her journey from Haiti to New York and her struggle to find herself in a complicated environment. The beginning of the book takes place in Haiti where we meet Sophie when she is twelve years old. She lives a fairly good life with her Aunt Atie and is fortunate enough to be able to go to school. Her mother moved to New York many years ago in search of a better life. The only thing that Sophie has left from her mother is a picture that she keeps next to her bed. One day when Sophie comes home from school her aunt awaits her with shocking news. Her mother has sent for her to come to New York with only a couple days notice. Sophie has to leave her whole life in Haiti behind to go and live with this unknown woman.

In New York Sophie struggles with culture shock and the hazard of taking care of her emotionally disturbed mother. Her mother suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from a rape that impregnated her with Sophie back in Haiti. Her mother’s main priority is to get Sophie a good education and, therefore, she wants Sophie to stay away from boys. When Sophie is eighteen she meets her next-door neighbor, Joseph, an older American jazz musician. They fall in love, and Sophie tries to keep it a secret. Regardless of their attempts, her mother finds out about Joseph and Sophie’s relationship and Sophie has to deal with the negative stigma attached to sex before marriage. It tears Sophie and her mother apart and Sophie decides to leave her mother for a life with Joseph. Sophie and Joseph move to Providence and have a daughter named Brigitte. On the outside it seems that Sophie is living her dream life. However, with scars from the past blocking her love for Joseph and the problems with her mom echoing inside of her, the pressure pushes Sophie toward depression. She tries over and over again to get in touch with her mother but she refuses to talk to her. Her problems overwhelm her and Sophie runs away with her daughter to Haiti.

In Haiti she reunites with her aunt Atie and her Grandmother and she sees a different side of her family and the problems they struggle with that she wasn’t able to understand when she was younger. Her grandmother lets Sophie’s mother know that Sophie is in Haiti, and soon Sophie’s mother returns there. Sophie and her mother reunite but their problems are deeper. They return to New York together, but Sophie’s mother has a big secret that is haunting her. The secret turns out to be more than she could handle and there is nothing Sophie can do about it.

I find the plot of the book to be fascinating because it deals with a problem in our society that I was not aware of before. The main theme is the issue that a group of people becomes voiceless and the book really captures how it is to be a woman with no voice and no future. The book also captures the feeling of the patriarchal society we live in and how women are raised and forced to serve the men in certain ways.

The Author, Edwidge Danticat, is herself a Haitian girl who immigrated to America at the same age as Sophie, and you can tell that the author has experienced the same situation as Sophie because she captures Sophie’s thoughts in a way that made it easy to relate to her situation. This is especially fascinating because I have lived a life free from the problems Sophie is struggling with, but the author gave me an understanding and awareness of the problem some women are dealing with, and I was able to make connections to my own life and the cultural differences I was struggling with when I arrived in America from Sweden eight months ago.

What I learned from reading this book is the importance of love and understanding with the people around us. I have in my past taken a lot of people for granted but the book has given me another perspective of love and the understanding for why people do some things. People can carry scars from the past, be emotionally trapped in their body, and this can cause them to hurt the ones they love.

The book was easy to read and it was never dull, and it was written in a language that was easy to interpret, even for me who learned English as my second language. I truly recommend the book to everyone out there, but especially to young people because it gives you a different perspective on cultural shock.

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