In After the Dance, Danticat returns to her homeland, taking readers on a stunning, exquisitely rendered journey beyond the hedonistic surface of Carnival and into its deep heart.
Edwidge Danticat had long been scared off from Carnival by a loved one, who spun tales of people dislocating hips from gyrating with too much abandon, losing their voices from singing too loudly, going deaf from the clamor of immense speakers, and being punched, stabbed, pummeled, or fondled by other lustful revelers. Now an adult, she resolves to return and exorcise her Carnival demons. She spends the week before Carnival in the area around Jacmel, exploring the rolling hills and lush forests and meeting the people who live and die in them. During her journeys she traces the heroic and tragic history of the island, from French colonists and Haitian revolutionaries to American invaders and home-grown dictators. Danticat also introduces us to many of the performers, artists, and organizers who re-create the myths and legends that bring the Carnival festivities to life. When Carnival arrives, we watch as she goes from observer to participant and finally loses herself in the overwhelming embrace of the crowd.
Part travelogue, part memoir, this is a lyrical narrative of a writer rediscovering her country along with a part of herself. It’s also a wonderful introduction to Haiti’s southern coast and to the true beauty of Carnival.
Organized in sections that parallel Danticat's perambulations in the week leading up to the event, the author illuminates the political, economic and cultural history of the island nation...It's said that the act of writing leads to a deeper understanding of one's subject, and oneself. As the work reveals in its final pages, for no one is this more true than Danticat, who offers an enlightening look at the country and Carnival through the eyes of one of its finest writers. Publishers Weekly
Danticat's musings subtly illuminate the island nation's tragic legacies, brutal politics, and deeply entrenched poverty, as well as the healing forces of its vital spirituality, art, and music, factors that converge in her stirring account of the highly symbolic and kinetically cathartic Carnival parade. Booklist “Danticat relates the history of a place—and an event—that she finds both heartbreaking and irresistible.” —The New Yorker
“[Danticat is] a marvelous writer, blending personal anecdotes, history and larger reflections.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Danticat writes with a compassionate insight but without a trace of sentimentality. Her prose is energetic, her vision is clear.” —The Miami Herald
“Sensual, magical but fiercely intelligent. . . . This gem of lyrical reportage takes [Danticat] from behind a ‘mask of distant observer’ into the heart of a ‘massive stream of joy,’ filling in the history and folklore behind the steamy surface.” —The Independent (London)