Like Hair on Your Head

For the last week or so I’ve been reading, “Breath, Eyes, Memory” — a Haitan tale of women and their relationships with their daughters. Of course, with the tragedy unfolding in Port au Prince, it’s been a difficult read. I don’t know that anyone handles this sort of mass tragedy well, but I feel itchy. I wish more than anything I had some sort of skill that would make me useful in such situations. I wish I was there.

And then, I don’t. I’m not sure I could handle seeing the death. I nearly fell off the treadmill yesterday when they showed footage of a little boy being rescued from the wreckage. His arms outstretched, he was handed overhead by rescuers down a mountain of broken concrete. I was in tears.

This book is an Oprah selection; they usually make me far too introspective and sad. This book didn’t send in the dark clouds. Instead, it told a strange, interesting tale from a cultural perspective I was hungry to learn from. It is an easy read and I did enjoy it.

My favorite excerpt comes from the very last page:

“There is always a place where women live near trees that, blowing in the wind, sound like music. These women tell stories to their children both to frighten and delight them. These women, they are fluttering lanterns on the hills, the fireflies in the night, the faces that loom over you and recreate the same unspeakable acts that they themselves lived through. There is always a place where nightmares are passed on through generations like heirlooms. Where women like cardinal birds return to look at their own faces in stagnant bodies of water.

“I come from a place where breath, eyes, and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tars in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to. My mother was as brave as starts at dawn.”

3 out of 5 bananas


5 Replies to “Like Hair on Your Head”

  1. I echo your feelings about Haiti – wanting to be there, to help, but thinking I wouldn’t be able to handle it…. but you never know. Strength can come at the most unexpected times.

    Also, I just wanted to say, thanks for turning me on to the Happiness Project blog – what? – a year ago? I went to Gretchen Ruben’s reading/book signing in KC last night and really enjoyed it. And of course, thought of you.
    Cheers, sweets!

  2. Kelli,

    Thanks for the book review, must put it on my list.

    Like you, the tragedy in Haiti has me reeling, the images are ghastly, and I think and pray for those poor people, how frightened they must be, yet hope remains. I heard this morning a five year old boy was found alive in the rubble of his home. I sent a prayer of thanks to God for that and continue to pray for them every night, as I pray for the people of Africa (that you have seen with your own eyes) and others I don’t even know about all over the world. It does put our lives in America into perspective doesn’t it, even when things are tough for us, it’s a million times worse for others around the globe. It’s humbling.

    Thanks again for the great blog and food for thought (as well as scrummy pictures of food for our tummies–again I envy your year-roundgrowing season, but not your hot season for sure!! I feel lucky to have a cilantro plant and geraniums that have not stopped blooming since I bought them in 2000 in my bay window that looks out over a snowcovered lawn!!) Last night my husband did start the seeds for impatiens so they will be ready to go in the spring. I’ve had to reign him in on the veggies, don’t want them to be ready for outside before the outside is ready for them!!!

    Have a great day!

  3. That sounds like a good book. I, too, would like to learn more about Haiti now. And I also feel like I wish I could go. Makes me wish I were a nurse or something that could actually help instead of hinder. But, of course, money helps, too, and there are many good groups out there. It’s hard to choose just one.

  4. Edwidge Danticat is a fabulous author and a winner of the McArthur Foundation award. She has written a bevy of books and each one is about Haiti and Haitian-Americans. “The Farming of the Bones” is a haunting read that is based on the massacre of Haitians in the Trujillo-led Dominican Republic in the 1930s. She wrote another book about her father and uncle.

    We can learn so much about Haiti and its diaspora through her writings and her talks.

    Thanks for highlighting her work.

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