We started with the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. It led to readings that focused on bringing marginalized voices to the center. Chief Seattle helped us to look into family histories and students interviewed family members and shared their stories.
Danticat gave us words and the students used them to look into society's structure and they examined the word "patriarchy."
The students also wrote extensions to the novel and some students rewrote the ending.
Edwidge Danticat Project
Edwidge Danticat writes for the “voiceless, the oppressed, and the greater good for the community.” In my opinion, the voiceless, and the oppressed are those who have no voice, or opinion in society. They may be afraid to speak the truth, or they simply are not taken into consideration. There opinion is worthless and does not count. These might be people who are overruled by a higher figure of power, and simply cannot voice their opinion, or concerns. Danticat also writes to help us understand the situations and the hardships being dealt with. She acknowledges the concerns that these people may have, and wants to help them by telling stories so the world can comprehend their point of view and their everyday life.
There are many examples in our society today, of people that cannot voice their opinion, or are not valued in society. One example is how women are being treated in the middle east. These women and children are being treated worse than animals. The women and children are not allowed to say anything, not allowed to voice their opinion because they are considered a minority. The men are in power, which means that the society is a patriarchy. The men rule everything. Another group of people that are “voiceless” are the homosexuals. They are not treated equally like everyone else. They cannot express their opinion without being maltreated in our society. They cannot speak their mind because our society does not believe in same sex marriage. They are afraid to say what they want because they don’t want to be rejected by the society.
In the article, Full Frontal Feminism, by Jessica Valentini, she argues the positive aspect of feminism. Violence is her main focus, due to the uprising problem in our society. She discusses that violence against women is becoming normalized because the men in our society have been raised to think that women are objects. This article relates to Danticat’s purpose for writing because Valenti is writing to help the poor women who are suffering from violence. She is standing up for the women who are afraid to speak the truth, and the women who are vulnerable to the actions’ taken by the men. Men tend to think that they are in a higher place in society, higher than women, which make it easier for the men to commit crimes against women. Women are the ones to blame for the action’s committed by the men, which is truly unfair. Full Frontal Feminism also relates to the meaning of Patriarchy, that society is dominated by those who are in power, usually males. The men in our society are being taught that “violence and sexual assault are okay” states Valentini. They think that they can do whatever they want, and that their actions‘ don’t affect others.
Danticat’s writing for the voiceless also connects to Chief Seattle’s Speech-My People. In this excerpt, Chief Seattle, wrote a response letter in accordance to the proposal that would change the lives of many. The proposal was from the governor, who wanted to buy their land, so chief Seattle’s people would have to move to a whole new land. He was skeptical at first, but the considered taking the offer. Chief Seattle's people were forced to migrate and start a whole new life in different town. This relates to Danticat because Chief seattle is also writing for those who cannot voice their opinion, the ones who are afraid to speak the truth. “Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation my people”. Chief seattle mentions that his people are the ones that dominate that part of the land, and they shall never be denied the right to visit their ancestors. His people are afraid of the greater power, the government. The government dominates the land, which means that they have more power over chief seattle and his people. This relates to the idea of Patriarchy, the ones in power rule. In this excerpt, the ones that ruled and dominated was the government.
Ellis Island, by Irving Howe also depicts the reason why Danticat writes: for those who are voiceless. Ellis Island was the point of entry for immigrants, from 1892 until 1965. This excerpt is the experience and the trauma that the European immigrants faced, while entering Ellis Island. “No previous difficulties roused such overflowing anxiety... as the anticipated test of Ellis Island.” As they entered the port, they were marked or or numbered for classification to determine the category they were put in. The immigrants were inspected to see if they were allowed entry. Those who did not pass the inspection were sent to different doctors to determine the mental issues that were assumed they had. Most of the immigrants were in search of a better life, but their fear overpowered it. Howe, like Danticat, writes for those who feel oppressed, and for those who feel that their opinion does not matter and think that their voice is worthless. Patriarchy also plays an important role in this excerpt because it shows how the society is dominated by the ones in power, usually males.
We are Ugly, but we are Here, by Edwidge Danticat, she truly expresses the meaning of her writing purpose. She reflects on her own childhood to tell us the story of where the saying “we are ugly, but we are here” comes from and what it means to her. This article is the article that will best represent why Danticat is writing for the oppressed and for the voiceless. Her ancestors were voiceless, which ignited a spark in Danticat to write. This article reflects the meaning of patriarchy because Danticat writes about the hardships that her family experienced while back in Haiti, before they had migrated to the United States, and who was in power during that time.
The Homeland, Aztlan, by Gloria Anzaldua, is about the immigrant experience that she experienced when she was young and how that particular experience shaped who she wanted to be in life. “As an openly lesbian Chicana writer and activist”, gloria’s life revolved around the culture and the voice of the women of color. This was Gloria’s passion, so she fulfilled it until her last days. She mentions that the border was two worlds emerging, and she talks about those who were in power: the whites, and “those who align themselves with whites.” “ The symbolic sacrifice of the serpent to the “higher” masculine powers indicates that the patriarchal order had already vanquished the feminism and matriarchal order.” Gloria refers to the meaning of patriarchy, that the whites and the males were the ones in power, the ones that dominated society. Gloria also speaks in behalf to those who were oppressed and those who had no voice in society. She is speaking for all the immigrants that have gone through the same experience as she has, and wants to tell her story and her outlook in respect to the immigrant experience.
In the article, The Silent Witness, by Raquel Partnoy, also discusses the immigrant experience, and her family hardships. Her ancestors were Russian-Jewish immigrants who settled in Argentina in 1913. She talks about her childhood, and what she witnessed as a young and innocent girl. As Raquel grew older and more mature, her passion was Art. Her paintings reflected the experiences and her heritage. After Raquel’s daughter had been taken away from her, and taken to a concentration camp for 5 months, She started painting more pictures that reflected her emotions. Raquel’s daughter, Alicia, had gotten married and conceived a baby girl. The baby girl, Ruth, witnessed her mother being caught and taken away from her. Ruth went to live with her grandparents. As this tragedy occurred, Raquel also noticed that her son was suffering from depression. She produced a series called “Clothes”, to represent his son’s life, until he could no longer bear it, and committed suicide at the age of 25. Raquel became very focused on the lives‘ of many and what they had suffered throughout their lifetime. Eventually, Raquel and her husband reconciled with her daughter and her family. These paintings represented all of the experiences and the memories that she had. This was a way for Raquel to speak for those who were oppressed and those who could not voice their opinion. This was a new way to come across, how her life had changed through her own self-experiences. Raquel painted several series to represent the different times in her life. This story reflects the idea of patriarchy, because her grandparents had migrated to a better country in search of a better life. They wanted to get away from a place that had no opportunities.
Gloria Anzuldua’s article, The Homeland, Aztlan, connects to Chief Seattle’s speech, because they both address the immigrant experience. Gloria talks about the borders being like two worlds emerging, and Chief Seattle talks about how they were forced to evacuate their land. The article helps me understand the speech in a distinct way, that it is not all about the bad experiences, it is about the positive attitude that comes from that negative aspect.
Yadira Cisneros, Moises Martinez,