Edwidge Danticat, the Quiet Stream

©2010 by Alice Walker

All this time, silenced, speechless, grateful for my meditation cushion, I have been thinking about the writer, Edwidge Danticat, whose writing for me, so pure and grounded and wise, is the quiet stream flowing in the background of the present chaos and noise in Haiti. Danticat explores with acute attention and tenderness the complex reality of Haiti and its people, and like Arundhati Roy of India it is impossible to think of her native country without her.

I remember reading not so long ago the exquisite, word perfect memoir of Danticat’s childhood in Haiti, living in the home of her uncle, her father’s brother, before being sent eventually to America to live with her parents, who, desperate to find a better place and life for their children, had gone there years before. The love and respect between the brothers moved me profoundly; for such fidelity and trust as existed between them aroused my longing for a more prevalent example of honor in our day to day lives, an honor exemplified in the relationship, lasting decades, of these two men.*

A writer’s heart, a poet’s heart, an artist’s heart, a musician’s heart, is always breaking. It is through that broken window that we see the world; more mysterious, beloved, insane and precious for the sparkling and jagged edges of the smaller enclosure we have escaped.

Edwidge, my younger sister, couraj, ma cherie.

There are millions of us thinking of you, with you, of Haiti. Learning what we must. Doing what we can. Understanding that someone labeled “criminal” for “looting” a box of candles may have a loved one crushed and bleeding to death in the dark. Who among us – so plump next to almost any Haitian – is put to this test?

Know the sturdy structure of words you have constructed about and for Haitians no earthquake can destroy. Your words will be part of the mortar that rejoins the soul and self-confidence of your people, so beloved by you: as they rise, once more; which being Haitian, they will.

Wherever you are.

Sharing strength,

Alice Walker

*Brother, I’m Dying.