Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Behind the Mountains

Behind the Mountains

By: Edwidge Danticat



This book is written in the format of first person fiction in the point of view of Celiane Espérance. Through her journal entries, Celiane opens the eyes of the readers to the life of child experiencing political unrest and corruption through first hand dangers and incidents that happen to her and her family. Celiane also gives insight to the struggles and of an immigrant child both in school and in the home since she not only has to adjust to a new school & friends, but a “new father” as well. The history of Haiti is also cleverly integrated into Celiane’s entries in order to teach the readers the accurate history of Haiti and also given recognition to important people in Haitian history. Surprisingly, this book also shines a light on school violence and gang-related issues present in schools.

Danticat’s book would be of excellent use for teaching the history of Haiti and heroes of Haiti. Danticat successfully integrates accurate information on both these topics in a subtle fashion. This book could be used in literacy in order to teach point of view in writing and journal writing as well. The fact that the book is entirely written in a journal format can also encourage journal writing to students with emotional and behavioral disorders and even immigrant children in order to provide them with a channel of how to release their inner frustrations. Moy’s paintings are emphasized much in this book and could lend itself for studying and making Haitian art. This book would also be of good use for community building skills since being part of a whole community is emphasized all throughout this book and students can have a healthier understanding of the life of an immigrant classmate. Since school violence is presented when Celiane moves to Brooklyn, New York; NYC public school teachers could also use this book in order to teach students about prevention of school violence in their own communities.

Social Justice Domains:

  1. Self-love and acceptance: Yes, students learn how to value and appreciate the richness of Haiti and its people.

  2. Respect for other: Yes, student will learn how to understand and respect the cultures of others by reading a first-hand account of an immigrant child.

  3. Exploring issues of social justice: Yes, the corruption and political unrest will teach students about the oppression experienced by Haitian residents.

  4. Social movements and social change: Yes, students learn how although there was political oppression in Haiti, people still stood up for what they believed for.

  5. Taking social action: No.

1 comment:

  1. My group also chose to read this book. I agree with all of Samantha's descriptions and uses of this book. I would add that there is vocabulary in the book that can lead to the study of Creole words and meanings, as well as, other foreign languages. I believe that some of the terms are more slang or 'created' words, which would relate very well to the current student population's uses of the English language.

    To add on to Samantha's comment about the book as a great introduction and encouragement to journal writing, I would think that reading this literature would lead very well into studying the Diary of Anne Frank, and other similar pieces of literature. This can work well in a lesson about points of view. In the realm of social justice, it is a great way to help students reach an understand that their voices are important and potentially world changing. It can increase their confidence in themselves as students, children, and social justice fighters. A culminating project could be based on The Freedom Writers Diary story, where the students create ways to share their voices in as many forms as they can think of.

    Overall, the book is a quick read and can be broken down to fit a class schedule because of the date entries. There is potential for character development studies as well. There is very little to know inappropriate language. There are many proverbs and literary devices that can be a focus of teaching. Unfortunately, there are no pictures/sketches, but this can lead to using imaginations,great art projects and art studies in general.I particularly liked that the ending was not a 'fairy tale' ending, or a horrific one, but rather a realistic one of what a Haitian (or any immigrant family) family's life might look life.