Restoring Haitian Women’s Voices and Verbalizing Sexual Trauma in Breath, Eyes, Memory
Abstract

Although Haitian women have been systematically excluded from social and historical discourse even as they actively engage in the fight for change, EdwidgeDanticat proves through her characters that revolutionaries come in many forms. Breath, Eyes, Memory rewrites the myths embedded in the country’s historical narratives so that Haitian women are unsilenced. As Myriam Chancy contends, “The experience of the Haitian woman is defined by exile within her own country, for she is alienated from the means to assert at once feminine and feminist identities at the same time that she undergoes the same colonial experiences of her male counterparts.” Fiction, then, provides a platform for Haitian women writers to present counternarratives to nationalist discourse, paternalism, and imperialism. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, Danticat examines the systematic erasure of Black women’s lived experiences and the implications of sexual assault. Set in the midst of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s inherited dictatorship, several years before Haiti’s first democratic election, Danticat’s novel exposes the emotional and physical scars left by gendered violence. Like Marie-Vieux Chauvet in her pivotal trilogy Amour, Colère, et Folie (1968), Danticat contextualizes Black female trauma as personal, generational, and political.


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