Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Danticat was separated from her mother for several years while her parents tried to earn money to bring her to America. In an interview in which she reflected on the relationship of her stories to her own experience, the author has said that separation and reunion between mothers and daughters is a powerful theme for Haitian women her age. Her stories often explore the difficulties of becoming a woman experienced by daughters whose mothers have been present in only a fragmentary way. Krik? Krak! also focuses on storytelling as a way to heal past psychic injuries and to create a sense of community. The refugees on the boat in “Children of the Sea” tell stories to help them cope with the possibility of imminent death, and the townspeople in “Wall of Fire Rising” sit around a blank television screen after the authorities have turned off the state-sponsored newscasts and tell stories. The mother tells her son stories in “Night Women” to help him deal with his fear and her prostitution.

Danticat has expressed the hope that the female storytellers she grew up with will tell their stories through her. “Epilogue: Women Like Us” is a meditation about women and writing. In the world she came from, the narrator says, women who write were called lying whores and then raped and killed. Writers were politicians who were sent to prison, covered in hot tar, and forced to eat their own waste. She concludes that her book is a testament to the way that these women lived and died and lived again. Other prominent themes in the stories include the endurance of, and rebellion against, repressive governments and governmental use of superstition and fear of the supernatural to control the populace.