Edwidge Danticot, Krik? Krak! (1996)



From Vodou to Literature Among the Women of Ville Rose


The sustaining voices of ancestors can metamorphose into Siren Calls of Madness, promising the desperate refuge, but eventually dragging them to their doom.



Ophelia’s Death in (Hamlet 4:7)


There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.



Narrators Children of the Sea (1994)


Eveline (1897-1937) mother of Defile; killed at the Massacre River in 1937 during the  Parsley Massacre


Defile (1917-1957) the loup garou of "1937"; mother of Josephine, keeper with the other village women of the annual Massacre River ritual


Josephine (1937- ) narrator of "1937"; daughter of Defile; 21 in 1958; keeper of the porcelain Madonna


Narrator of “Night Women”- a Ghost Woman (prostitute) surviving briefly in the fairy tale dream land of her son’s five yr. old imagination


Marie (1960-1980) narrator of “Between the Pool and the Gardenia”: 1980; daughter of Josephine of "1937"; lover of the Dominican gardener; mother of LaMorte


Lili (1937-90) - wife of Guy and mother of Little Guy in “A Wall of Fire Rising” (Bookman Dutty: Bois Caiman vodou houngan)  of Godmother of Marie. She kills herself in her old age when her son moves away to Miami.


Lamort (1980-)  (daughter of Marie and the gardener) narrator of "The Missing Peace"; friends with Toto and Raymond, members of the local death squad… (the password no longer is “peace’)  Age 14+ during the overthrow of Aristide (early 1990's); friends with Emilie, the journalist who has come to Haiti in search of her mother, killed by FRASH during the recent coup against Aristide; renames herself Marie Magdalene.


Princesse (1982-) narrator of “Seeing Things Simply”; the twelve year old model for Catherine, the French painter from Guadaloupe who owns a house ‘on the hill’ overlooking the beach in Ville Rose and hopes to open a show in Paris with her portraits of Princesse. Princesse lives in a hut near the school yard where the men drink and wager on cock fights.


Suzette (1970- ) Narrator of “New York Day Women” She says her mother became a mother is 33. If Suzette is in her mid-20’s in 1994, that would make her mother about the age of Josephine, the narrator of “1937”.  She has now emigrated to Brooklyn and has apparently lived there all of Suzette’s life. That means she left Ville Rose by 1961, early in Papa Doc’s dictatorship. One day, Suzette spots her mother on 57th St. in Manhattan and follows her to Central Park. Suzette’s mother has secretly been working as a ‘Day Woman’ in the park: she babysits for women joggers while they work out. She is hoping to earn enough money to pay the mortgage on their house so that her husband does not need to drive a cab anymore. She has lost six of her seven sisters in Ville Rose and does not return anymore for the funerals.


Gracile (1961-) narrator of “Caroline’s Wedding”: daughter of Hermine (1934-) and Papa (1924-1984); sister of Caroline (1971-) Hermine and her husband moved to the US in 1969. Gracile has just received her naturalization certificate and has applied for her passport: she is now an official US citizen. Caroline, born in the US, is marrying Eric, a Bahamian. Caroline was born with a withered arm, the result of poor medical treatment of mother while she was in prison.) Grace and her mom go to a “Mass” (Haitian style) at Saint Agnes for the dead refugees from “Children of the Sea”.  Mother objects to the informality of Caroline’s plans for wedding. (“Everything mechanical.”) No letter to parents asking permission. YET Caroline comes to her mother on the day of her wedding, unable to move forward. She needs a mint bath… and her mother’s blessing “You are an island girl with one kind of season in your blood: you will make a wife for all seasons.” (202) before she agrees to go through with the wedding. At the ceremony she wears a mechanical arm that she uses to chase away ‘the pain of ghosts’.


Dreams of Papa (who dies of untreated prostate cancer) as the wedding day approaches. (Instead of wearing the ‘blood red panties’ to keep his ghost away, the girls have worn black throughout the mourning period.)   Dreams (171: looking at Papa at a party through a glass window); (175: Papa in mask laughing in French chateau; mask frozen scream); (210) Papa in Grace’s dream with her next to a stream of rose-colored blood: “If you close your eyes really tight, wherever you are, you will see these stars.”) At the end of the story Grace goes to the cemetery in Queens where her father is buried to tell him of Caroline’s wedding.


Memories and proverbs: “You have lived this long in this strange world so far from home because you remember.” (177) Caroline as a little girl awakening in the night and not recognizing her father. (186) “So young… the child who has never known Haiti.” (189)