BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS
Release date: 10/01/2002
Launching the First Person Fiction series of immigrant coming-of-age stories, Danticat's (Breath, Eyes, Memory, for adults) debut novel for young people follows Celiane's journey from her mountain village in Haiti to join her father in Brooklyn. The narrative opens in October 2000 and unfolds as a journal, in which 13-year-old Celiane recounts events in a charming, innocent voice ("I must go soon, sweet little book, to prepare for Manman's return from the market"). Daily activities (e.g., preparing for market, listening to cassettes her father sends) give way to mounting political tensions as the presidential election approaches. Oddly, however, Celiane's childlike hopefulness persists even after she and her mother are injured by a pipe bomb ("Dear, sweet little book, if I could hold onto you so tightly that you are now here with me, why couldn't I have done the same for Manman?"). In December, Celiane, her mother and brother rejoin her father, who left five years before due to economic pressures. Through Celiane's spare if somewhat simplistic narration, the author captures the color and texture of Haitian life as well as the heroine's adjustment to New York. While readers may want to hear more about her experiences in Brooklyn, they will appreciate the truthfulness of the family's struggle to reconnect (even if the presentation of some of the historical information seems clunky). Danticat details her own departure from Haiti as an afterword. Ages 11-15. (Oct.)
FYI:Ana Veciana-Suarez's more political Flight to Freedom, which provides an anti-Castro take on a girl's family's move from Cuba to Miami, is also being released this month as part of the same series.