Thursday, February 25, 2010

Behind the Mountains by Edwidge Danticat

In this short novel, a first person narrative, Celiane recounts her journey from her mountain village in Haiti to join her father in Brooklyn, NY in her diary. Living in Haiti, Celiane, her brother Moy, and her mother, Manman, are threatened by bombs going off in Port-au-Prince during election time when they travel there from their village in the mountains. Celiane writes of her mixed emotions of the uncertainty of their arrival in New York, where their father has been working to support them. As they begin their new life in New York as a family reunited, things are not as picture perfect as Celiane had imagined. Celiane encounters many things that confuse her emotions, including moving to a brand new country, riding in a bus that has been bombed, having a brother that moves out of the house. Celiane is able to record and sort out this spectrum of feelings by writing them in her little notebook.
We found this book to be an informative account of Celiane’s experiences living in rural Haiti where she received her early education. The author portrays a vivid picture of what life is like in rural Haiti in the beautiful mountains. She then goes on to describe a picture of stark contrast in Port-au-Prince and then further elaborates on her adjustment in New York City. The book sheds light on many areas of Celiane’s life through her personal account in her diary. Danticat explores the modern day immigration experience through the eyes of Celiane. This book is an absolute must read in the classroom setting in order to help students to understand more about Haiti in light of the devastating earthquake.
In the Classroom:
This book can be used as a basis for learning more about Haiti. Students can begin building background prior to reading this book by researching important facts about Haiti. Teachers can integrate History, Geography, and Math into the Language Arts curriculum by asking students to conduct this research. Teachers can ask students to compare and contrast their own experiences of living in NYC as first generation or second generation immigrants. The discussion can be used a powerful tool to gain a more comprehensive understanding of students within the classroom and teachers and students alike can gain more of an insight of the feelings and experiences of students.

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