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After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (Crown Journeys) [Hardcover]

by Edwidge Danticat
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 6, 2002 0609609084 978-0609609088 1
In After the Dance, one of Haiti’s most renowned daughters returns to her homeland, taking readers on a stunning, exquisitely rendered journey beyond the hedonistic surface of Carnival and into its deep heart.

Edwidge Danticat had long been scared off from Carnival by a loved one, who spun tales of people dislocating hips from gyrating with too much abandon, losing their voices from singing too loudly, going deaf from the clamor of immense speakers, and being punched, stabbed, pummeled, or fondled by other lustful revelers. Now an adult, she resolves to return and exorcise her Carnival demons. She spends the week before Carnival in the area around Jacmel, exploring the rolling hills and lush forests and meeting the people who live and die in them. During her journeys she traces the heroic and tragic history of the island, from French colonists and Haitian revolutionaries to American invaders and home-grown dictators. Danticat also introduces us to many of the performers, artists, and organizers who re-create the myths and legends that bring the Carnival festivities to life. When Carnival arrives, we watch as she goes from observer to participant and finally loses herself in the overwhelming embrace of the crowd.

Part travelogue, part memoir, this is a lyrical narrative of a writer rediscovering her country along with a part of herself. It’s also a wonderful introduction to Haiti’s southern coast and to the true beauty of Carnival.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twenty years after emigrating to America, Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory) returns to her native Haiti and the coastal village of Jacmel to take part in her first Carnival. But she's not without reservations. As a child she was forbidden to partake in the festivities by her uncle, a Baptist minister with whom she lived before joining her parents in New York at age 12. "People always hurt themselves during carnival, he said, and it was their fault, for gyrating with so much abandon that they would dislocate their hips and shoulders and lose their voices while singing too loudly." Organized in sections that parallel Danticat's perambulations in the week leading up to the event, the author illuminates the political, economic and cultural history of the island nation, introducing Columbus, French colonists and Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, the dictator of Danticat's youth. Throughout, readers meet local artists, farmers and activists who call Jacmel home, including Ovid, a farmer whom Danticat meets having lost her way in an abandoned sugar plantation. Madame Ovid, his wife, crafts paper cones to hold the grilled corn flour she will sell during carnival. It's said that the act of writing leads to a deeper understanding of one's subject, and oneself. As the work reveals in its final pages, for no one is this more true than Danticat, who offers an enlightening look at the country and Carnival through the eyes of one of its finest writers.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Danticat (Farming of Bones; The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Diaspora in the United States) journeyed back to her native Haiti to explore what had been forbidden in her childhood: the colorful, raucous, dangerous carnival. Arriving a week before the annual event, she sought out some of the island's more unusual residents while exploring the history, folklore, and meaning of the many images of carnival. Her lively narrative describes a rich and complicated cultural history, influenced by Christianity, vodou, Europeans, pirates, dictators, past slavery, and an uncertain economy. From zombies, Arawak Indians, and SIDA (syndrome immuno-deficitaire acquis), representing the ravages of AIDS, to the devilish Mathurins, who battle the dragon-slaying archangel Saint Michel, the many masked and costumed carnival participants parade by Danticat. By the end of the story, she has overcome her childhood fears, dropped her inhibitions, and joined in the enthusiastic revelry that is carnival, embracing strangers and singing. A short but entertaining narrative; for academic and public libraries. [This is the first in a series called "Journeys" that will feature noted authors on favorite destinations; forthcoming works include Michael Cunningham on Provincetown, Laura Esquivel on Mexico, Ishmael Reed on Oakland, and Myla Goldberg on Prague. Ed.] Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adam.
- Linda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Series: Crown Journeys
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1 edition (August 6, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609609084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609609088
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #254,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti in 1969 and came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She graduated from Barnard College and received an M.F.A. from Brown University. She made an auspicious debut with her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and followed it with the story collection Krik? Krak!, whose National Book Award nomination made Danticat the youngest nominee ever. She lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This poignant narrative will mesmerize readers October 29, 2002
You are given a challenge that harkens back to your childhood ---return to carnival and write about it. You think about the consequences, and perhaps second guess yourself for allowing someone to even suggest going back to deal with the demons that sent you packing in the first place. Such is the case that the author contemplates in this installment of The Crown Journeys, a new series that has authors writing about different places around the world after traveling them on foot.
While acquiescing and taking the walk that spawned this book, Edwidge Danticat doesn't disappoint. In recent years she has fast become a media darling and one of Haiti's rising stars in literature. Here she shares with her readers a poignant and compelling view of the Jacmel Carnival, one of the Caribbean's major carnivals --- rivaled with and compared only to Rio and Trinidad. She gives insight and deep-rooted analogies of historic content, exploration of the land in and around her hometown of Jacmel, and the traditions of the people themselves as a true native would tell it.
The old adage of "there's no place like home" will always have a sense of purpose when coming back, and relative to the aforementioned, Ms Danticat gives the readers something to digest. Along the way she visits a cemetery and reveals what she thinks of them: �I have always enjoyed cemeteries. Altars for the living as well as resting places for the dead they are entryways, I think to any town or city�the best places to become acquainted with the tastes of the inhabitants, both present and gone�.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things are better now in Haiti. September 17, 2002
Until this short, entertaining book, part memoir and part travelogue, I'd never read much of anything positive about Haiti. Years of political strife and the Duvalier dictatorships have certainly taken its toll on this densely populated third of Hispaniola (the rest is the Dominican Republic), but apparently Haiti is ready for tourists again and there's much to attact us there. Carnival, those jubilant and reckless days before Lent, would be a grand time to go. Like similar celebrations in Rio, Venice, and New Orleans, this a festival of the bizarre and the ridiculously sublime. Danticat is a fine writer and portrays her native country and countrymen with clarity and passion. This is part of Crown Journeys, a very promising new series of travel essays, written by some of our finest contemporary authors. Educating and entertaining; makes you want to book passage on the next flight or ship.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edwidge Danticat-speaks truth to power!!! August 4, 2002
By A Customer
"After the Dance" by Edwidge Danticat, is a celebration of the beauty, history and power of African culture in the diaspora of Haiti. Edwidge Danticat's writings stand on the shoulders of great writers such as Zora Neal Hurston, Langston Hughes and Walter Mosley. "After the Dance" champions the day to day experiences, joys, and challenges of people of African ancestry as they celebrate Carnival in Haiti. By accurately telling their story in "After the Danice", Edwidge Danticat paints a multi-sided portait of a community in transition, and as with any great writer, the truth she speaks about one community , informs our understanding of all communities. "After the Dance" is an excellent work by an excellent writer...
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