Krik? Krak! opens with the story “Children of the Sea,” which consists of an “exchange” of letters between two young lovers. Hauntingly, the letters are written, but never actually exchanged, because the young man is on a small boat with a group of people who are trying to escape Haiti, where they are wanted by the police for speaking out against the government. The reader learns at the end of the story that the young man is being forced to throw his letters overboard to make the boat lighter, because it has sprung a leak. The reader also suspects that the boat and its inhabitants will not survive this journey. For all its tragedy, this story has a tender side. In their writing, the young lovers reveal the depth of their feelings for each other, the unconditional love that the young woman’s parents have for her, and the young man’s commitment to justice despite its cost.
Many of the other stories in Krik? Krak! are similarly bittersweet. The prostitute in “Night Women” dreads the night, when her “suitors” come to visit. Yet, to protect her young son from the truth about her work, she invents magical stories about visiting angels to explain why she dresses up and puts on make-up at night when she is not planning to go out. “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” also transforms tragedy into tenderness. Josephine’s mother’s “crime” is purportedly being a witch and having the ability to fly. Josephine is devastated by her mother’s imprisonment, and she finds that she cannot talk when she visits her mother. When her mother dies, Josephine, nurtured by a friend, realizes that the mother-daughter bond is not broken even by death, and that she might one day be reunited with her mother.
The most complicated story in Krik? Krak! is “A Wall of Fire Rising,” in which Lili and Guy’s young son, a good student, is chosen for the lead role in a school play. In their pride over their son’s accomplishments, the parents dream of a better life for him than the poverty, hunger, and unemployment that mark their lives.
Ironically, the son’s school play is about Boukman, a leader of the slave rebellion that won Haiti its independence from France in 1804. In the play, Boukman’s passionate speeches about freedom are written not in the Creole dialect of native Haitians but by a European who has the slave speak in “European phrasing.” As the symbol of the boy’s aptitude for learning, the play hints that Lili’s dreams of an education for her son will make him less Haitian and more European. Most tragically, the reader learns in a later story that Lili “killed herself in old age because her husband had jumped out of a flying balloon and her grown son left her to go to Miami.”
Braziel, Jana Evans. “Défilée’s Diasporic Daughters: Revolutionary Narratives of Ayiti, Nanchon, and Dyaspora in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak!” Studies in the Literary Imagination 37, no. 2 (Fall, 2004): 103-122. Analyzes Danticat’s preoccupation with maternity as an emblem of Haiti and diaspora. Also discusses Danticat’s feminist re-visioning of Haiti’s history through two heroic maternal figures from the colonial and the revolutionary periods of Haiti’s history.
Danticat, Edwidge. “The Dangerous Job of Edwidge Danticat: An Interview.” Interview by Renee H. Shea. Callaloo 19, no. 2 (Spring, 1996): 382-389. In this extensive interview, Danticat talks about the importance of mother/daughter relationships, the strength of women, and the theme of death in her stories.
Davis, Rocio G. “Oral Narrative as Short Story Cycle: Forging Community in Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak!” MELUS
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MELUS 26, no. 2 (Summer, 2001): 67-82. Argues that ethnic writers such as Danticat are drawn to the short-story cycle because of its link to oral narrative and thus its ability to develop identity and create community. Traces recurring images that create a body of mystical unity between the characters of the stories.
Houston, Robert. “Expecting Angels.” The New York Times, April 23, 1995, Section 7, p. 22. Says that the best of Danticat’s stories humanize and particularize the lives of people whom many have seen as faceless representations of misery and brutality. Notes that because some of the stories were written when Danticat was an undergraduate, their level of sophistication varies greatly.
Wucker, Michele. “Edwidge Danticat: A Voice for the Voiceless.” Americas 52, no. 3 (May/June, 2000): 40-46. Recounts Danticat’s extensive activities in support of Haitian rights, both in her homeland and in the United States. Asserts that Danticat examines the human spirit under duress and gives a voice to the voiceless people who appear in news photos of Haiti.