Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Edwidge  Danticat

Alexis  Tice 
Haitian Immigration and Religious Practices

Edwidge Danticat: An Autobiographically Inspired Journey to Self Identity

Novelist Edwidge Danticat is an advocate for both womenís rights and Haitian immigration. An immigrant herself, she learned that in order to succeed she must look for answers in the memories of the life she lived in Haiti. Her memoirs reflect her ability to overcome obstacles; this characteristic is also true of her fictional characters. Her characters find a sense of identity by learning from their past despite a lack of communication and trust. Danticat struggles to find her true self, to find the courage to accept lifeís difficulties, process them and implement solutions. Like Danticatís own experience, Sophie in Breath, Eyes,Memory deals with the difficulty of being tested for sexual pureness as a child, causing adult insecurities. Danticat describes the hardships from her own life in order that her readers know how to deal with them , should they encounter them. For Danticat and her female protagonists, maturity does not happen without suffering traumatic situations, but such impediments are able to become learning experiences.

The supportive role of religious institutions and practices in the lives of Haitians in their homeland continued when they immigrated to the United States. The religions that they followed in Haiti were Christianity, which included both Catholicism and Protestantism, and Voodoo. Religious and political persecution, along with poverty, led many Haitians to migrate to the United States. During the time of the dictator Francois Duvalier, in the 1960s, the highest number of Haitians immigrated; yet when President Aristide was in office, in the 1990s, the numbers decreased. Making a new life in the United States was very difficult because Haitians were stereotyped, didnít know the language, and needed to make many adjustments to the new American culture. However, comfortable familiar religious practices and supportive religious institutions eased their way in their new land. In places with many Haitians, the American Catholic Church recruited Haitian priests so that they could say the mass in Creole. Religion was the main factor enabling immigrants to adapt culturally and economically to American society.

Major Works Consulted:

Danticat, Edwidge. Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York: Thorndike, 1994.
---. Brother, Iím Dying. New York: Knopf, 2007.
Gaines, Jena. Haitian Immigration. Broomall: Mason Crest, 2004.
Mooney, Margarita A. Faith Makes Us Live. Los Angeles: U of California P, 2009.
Photo Credit: Danticat, Edwidge. Brother, Iím Dying.New York: Knopf, 2007.