Danticat, Edwidge. After the Dance: a Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002.
The premise for After the Dance is really quite simple. Danticat, despite growing up in Haiti, has never been to Carnival. Being one of the largest cultural events that defines the island, this seems impossible to imagine. But, the explanation is just as simple. While growing up, Danticat’s uncle convinced her Satan was at work during Carnival. To avoid the voodoo and zombies every year this uncle made his family leave town for the week to work on a relative’s farm. As an obvious result Danitcat grew up afraid of Carnival. After the Dance is her response to that fear, faced head on. She researches the symbolism and history behind it, but curiously enough, she doesn’t describe the actual event until the last 20 or so pages of the book. It isn’t until the very end (page 147) that she gives in to the emotion and describes what she feels. I have to admit, the result is anticlimactic. She eventually loses herself in the joy of Carnival but that joy is understated like a passing flicker of interest.
Quotes I liked, “There is a saying here: houses don’t have owners, only cemeteries do” (p 27).
Reasons I like Edwidge Danticat: “I have always enjoyed cemeteries” (p 25).
Reason read: January is Journal Month. It is also the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. It is also when Carnival traditionally takes place (the first Sunday in January).
Author fact: Danticat moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was twelve but never forgot her roots.
Book trivia: This is a short read – only 158 pages. It would have been great to have photographs to supplement the text.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Haiti” (p 55).