Monday, March 16, 2015

Anniversary Edition: Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

“The girl she said, I didn’t tell you this because it was a small thing, but little girls, they leave their hearts at home when they walk outside. Hearts are so precious. They don’t want to lose them.”

Breath, Eyes, Memory was Haitian American author Edwidge Danticat’s debut, the book that made readers and reviewers instantly sit up and pay attention: here was a writer to watch out for.

Published in 1994, it is the story of Sophie Caco as we follow her from her native Haiti at 12 to the inevitable culture shock that New York City will be.

The 20th anniversary edition from Soho Press includes an essay about the book by the author as well as an interview with her. The insights Danticat provides in both forums add a depth to an already wonderful book.

“First novels are a lot like first children,” Danticat writes in the afterword. “You lavish all your love and attention on them, but you also make all your rookie mistake on them. First novels teach you how to write.”

And it’s true: Danticat’s novels have become progressively more luminous, sharper, perhaps better defined. But this first? Was pure love, pure raw pain. And it is still so very beautiful. ◊

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