edwidge danticat

Haitian culture, family story in Big Read

edwidge danticat

FAMILY MEMOIR — Danticat’s novel was both published by and awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2007. Random House was the book’s publisher. (Beta.PRX)

The Big Read is an annual event that started in 2014 in Holland. Every year the Holland area picks a book to read and throughout November there are discussions, workshops and other events about the chosen work. The past two years they covered “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. This year the book is “Brother, I’m Dying” by Edwidge Danticat.

Nov. 1 started the month off with multiple presentations about “Brother, I’m Dying” and Haitian life. Book discussions will be held at a wide array of places, including JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar, Hope College’s Van Wylen library, Biggby Coffee and the Holland Museum. If you’re unable to make one discussion, there are plenty of other opportunities dispersed throughout the next five weeks.

Danticat was born in Haiti but ended up in the United States at 12 years of age, according to Hope’s event page. Her Big Read book is a memoir that also touches upon Haitian culture and its relationship with the United States. “She has a gift for fusing together objective analysis and raw, personal stories so that the reader walks away not only knowing more about Danticat’s experience, but the experiences and realities of thousands of people around the world,” Annika Gidley (’19) said. Danticat will be giving a keynote address in Dimnent chapel on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m., with a Q & A earlier that day at 10 a.m.

There are also a couple movies being screened at the Knickerbocker Theatre as part of the month-long series. “La Belle Vie,” a film covering the political and economic aspects of Haiti, will be shown Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. “Poverty Inc.” will be shown on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. It is a movie that discusses charities and their relationship with impoverished places—whether they are healthy or unhelpful. There will also be post-film book discussions at Our Brewing Company.

“Attending Big Read events and hearing Danticat speak can help students to undo this view and to see Haiti as a country with a vibrant culture worthy of attention for something other than its problems,” Gidley said.
It seems our Western world is lacking the cultural consciousness we as humans should obtain. Not only should we seek to gain knowledge on Haiti’s true culture, but this should be a nudge in the right direction of how the world should be approached.

In a similar sentiment, Gidley finished by commenting, “I cannot put into words how powerful this memoir is, and I urge everyone to read it and participate in the Big Read this year.”

This November, students have a great opportunity to look beyond themselves and listen to the lesser-known voices of our planet. Do not take such a chance for granted; take advantage of this valuable, worthwhile month that the Holland community has set up for us all.
The Big Read will end with a book discussion Dec. 6 at the Howard Miller Library. Read more about the upcoming events on Hope’s blog page.

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