The Farming of Bones Critical Context - Essay

Edwidge Danticat

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Typically, the African Caribbean novel reexamines social and political issues through a first-person voice, a commoner who provides an eyewitness account. Danticat follows this pattern in The Farming of Bones, basing her work upon written accounts and Haiti’s strong oral tradition. Her second book, Krik? Krak! (1995), was modeled on some of the stories she heard in her youth and was nominated for a National Book Award. The author has named among her literary influences successful Haitian writer Marie Chauvet. She has also been influenced by the honesty of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970) and Barbadian American writer Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones (1959).

Danticat’s strongest influence comes from Haiti itself, a nation largely poor and rural, with a rich folklore. Some critics have questioned the use of so much violence in her work, but such violence is part of the nation’s dark and bloody past. Others praise her inclusion of Creole, the language of the people, in her dialogue. Her great gift is to render so clearly, in simple, powerful words, authentic details that give the true flavor of Haitian and Haitian American culture. In 1999, The Farming of Bones won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. Danticat has also received a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation grant and was named one of twenty Best Young American Novelists of 1996 by Granta. Critics generally agree that hers is a significant new voice, and she takes a well-deserved place with other writers of African Caribbean immigrant literature.