The Farming of Bones depicts a historical event—an ethnic cleansing massacre that occurred in the Dominican Republic in 1937—as well as the event’s aftermath. The massacre was a horrible, defining moment in Haitian and Dominican history.
Born in Haiti in 1969, Edwidge Danticat moved to New York when she was twelve years old to rejoin her parents, who had immigrated to the United States earlier to find work. One of a limited number of Haitian, or even of Caribbean, writers, particularly women, whose work is published and available in the United States and Western countries, Danticat’s experiences as a Haitian immigrant to the United States inform her writing, teaching, and work advocating for immigrant and human rights. Her works explore current and historical relationships between Haiti, the United States, and individuals whose lives are affected by these places. She is also interested in those who are affected by living near a political border, such as that between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in The Farming of Bones.
Danticat grew up speaking Kreyol, the creole language of Haiti, and French, the language used in Haitian schools, learning English after coming to the United States. The title, The Farming of Bones, is a translation of a Kreyol phrase describing work in the cane fields, travay te pou zo, as the cane stalks at harvest resemble bones. The phrase takes on a different meaning as well, referring to Trujillo’s order to kill, or cut down, thousands of Haitian migrants working in the cane fields, as domestic servants, and in other lower levels of employment in the Dominican Republic. The novel includes other uses of Kreyol and of Spanish (the language of the Dominican Republic), demonstrating the linguistic mélange of transnational communities—whether they are historically or recently combined.
(The entire section is 782 words.)