Sunday, March 6, 2016
Krik! Krak! by Edwidge Danticat
Looking back at my review of Edwidge Danticat's story collection Krik? Krak!, I find that I don't have much to add. That doesn't bode very well for the prospect of teaching this book, which I like, but which I'm not sure is going to stand up to the kind of close-reading exercises that are the normal way of approaching a text in high schools. That's OK, not every text has to be approached in the same way, but the fact that I didn't notice anything new the second time makes me wonder how productive our discussions will be. I think my students will like this book, and I hope they can find things in it that maybe I have missed; connections between the stories that are interesting and valuable.
I did feel a little differently about each story. I liked "Between the Pool and Gardenias," about a woman who finds and cares for the corpse of a dead child (yikes!) a little less than I did the first time I read it, and I liked a couple of them a little more: "Nineteen Thirty-Seven," whose narrator visits her mother in a Haitian prison, and especially "Seeing Things Simply," about a young Haitian girl who poses nude for a foreign artist. I like the latter because there's a genuine ambiguity about Catherine, the painter, who sells these paintings of Princesse's nude body at art shows in Paris. Is Catherine a positive force, who shows Princesse the beauty of her own body, or a negative one, a foreigner who exploits that same body, like a colonialist? I enjoy that kind of ambiguity, but it's not something I think Danticat is interested in, generally speaking.
Anyhow, if Krik? Krak! isn't the kind of book I am accustomed to teaching, well that's all the better. We decided to include it in our curriculum because we're severely lacking in women writers and writers of color, and what would be the point of reading this novel if it had the style and tone of Great Expectations, or something? Teaching Krik? Krak! will be a challenge for me, but one I'm happy to admit that I need to take.