Tuesday, November 18, 2008

By reading Invisible Cities as the first text of the semester, my perception on humanity has directly been shaped by the relationships that are formed between us, either by choice or necessity. As the varied stories of Krick? Krack? continue it becomes clear that beyond the bond of national travesty, the different characters share commonality on the basic human-to-human level. This thematic thread is particularly important in Danticat’s expression of women, as their harrowed experiences propel the text. Their relationships flurry and blossom even in the darkest moments of their nation’s histories, in the search for identity in They Who Do Not Grieve, and explicitly within the experiences of my students at the Esperanza Center.
The form of Krick? Krack! forces the reader to become confused before becoming aware. As the disjointed stories, all centered in Haiti and all referencing the coup that created national terror, are formulated we as readers are searching for points of intersection, just as we first did as we moved from books one to two in They Who Do not Grieve. Danticat forms the connections for us as she says, “My grandmother Defile who died with a bald head in a prison because God had given her wings. My mother Lili who killed herself in old age because her husband has humped out of a flying balloon and her grown son left her to go to Miami,” (94). These women all suffered incredible loss, whether loss of freedom, loss of innocence, loss of a child, or loss of a husband it is not only their bloodlines that tie them together but their misfortune.
Yet even in the moments of excruciating pain, there is comfort in the safety net of the familial link, “For no matter how much distance death tried to put between us, my mother would often come to visit me,” (93). At the same time, there is a sense of cyclical death between mother and child that leaves the reader with an unpleasant taste in his or her mouth, “‘My mother died while I was being born,’ I explained, ‘My grandmother was really mad at me for that,’” (109). It is the same perpetuation of bereavement that appears in Sia Figiel’s work, where the women of Lalolagi’s family continually punish and self-inflict suffering. The interconnectivity of these stories is intrinsically bound by and to the paths of pain. There is, however, hope or the illusion of hope at the end of each. As Malu prepares herself to give birth she promises that she will break the chain of misfortunate mothers and that her child will be different, “to live in all the confusion of the present, knowing that there are still dreams to be dreamt,” (270). As Malu takes control of her hope, control of her future, Lamort, too understands the possibility of change, “‘Yes, Marie Magdalene,’ I said. ‘I want you to call me Marie Magdalene.’ I liked the sound of that,” (122). For the pain-stricken women we’ve encountered through our own literary travels, it is the hope that inspires and creates such connection in the first place.
I promise that I did not do this intentionally, but my service site is called the Esperanza Center, esperanza meaning hope. They recently changed the name from Hispanic Apostolate to the Esperanza Center and I believe that such a designation change helps to fortify the true meaning and mission of the Center. The new name allows me view my students in a new and unbiased way. Like my new student Paz, a 22 year old immigrant from El Salvador, who fled from similar turmoil that threatened Haiti in Danticat's account. She does not like to talk about the family that she left behind, nor her struggles here. Instead, she takes our 2 hour-long sessions as a opportunity to challenge her strengthening English language skills. She said to me, “I need to learn address so I can get job.” Meaning, that she needed to learn how to say her address in English so that she could even take the first step in getting a job application. In addition to practical survival, Paz understands that the only way that she will ever get a better job than that of a housekeeper is to become proficient in both reading, speaking, and writing in English. Her determinism and personal will marks Paz as one of the most hopeful students I have encountered. Even in the face of suffering both past and present, Paz’s optimism radiates to all of the other students in my class. It is this essence of our humanity that I have found within the works of this semester. While They Who Do Not Grieve and Krick? Krack! take explicit notions of agony in order to show the resilience of their characters, all of our works have touched on the hopefulness that can come from a period of darkness. It is through this connection to each other that hope is even possible, and it is the perpetuation of our bond to each other that we learn and grow as individuals and as members of our common humanity.

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