Book Review: Krik? Krak! by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat’s short story collection Krik? Krak! (1991) is my Around the World for a Good Book selection for Haiti. Danticat’s stories loosely connected together by the themes of political violence and Haitain ideals, suffering and escape, and the strength of Haitian women.  Storytelling is also an important theme, the title referring to a phrase Haitians use to introduce a story.  With the harsh cruelties of Haitian life so intricately detailed, I cannot say this book is beautiful, but Danticat certainly has a lyrical writing style.

Flight plays an important part literally from the women imprisoned and starved because they’re believed to be witches who can fly, to the father who wishes to escape on a hot air balloon.  Figuratively, flight documents those who flee from the political oppression of Haiti.  The first story is an exchange of letters from a refugee on a leaky boat to one who stayed behind in Haiti suffering abuse and rape from the military police.  Neither of them meet a good end.

The later stories take place in New York among the Haitian immigrant community. In a superficial way they remind me of the stories of Amy Tan in that they show the strains of relationships between mothers and daughters, immigrants and American-born.  Haitian myth and folklore informs all the stories even within the most contemporary settings.

This is an excellent and moving collection of stories which I recommend highly.