Review

After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti

by Edwidge Danticat



You are given a challenge that harkens back to your childhood ---
return to carnival and write about it. You think about the
consequences, and perhaps second guess yourself for allowing
someone to even suggest going back to deal with the demons that
sent you packing in the first place. Such is the case that the
author contemplates in this installment of The Crown Journeys, a
new series that has authors writing about different places around
the world after traveling them on foot.

While acquiescing and taking the walk that spawned this book,
Edwidge Danticat doesn't disappoint. In recent years she has fast
become a media darling and one of Haiti's rising stars in
literature. Here she shares with her readers a poignant and
compelling view of the Jacmel Carnival, one of the Caribbean's
major carnivals --- rivaled with and compared only to Rio and
Trinidad. She gives insight and deep-rooted analogies of historic
content, exploration of the land in and around her hometown of
Jacmel, and the traditions of the people themselves as a true
native would tell it.

The old adage of "there's no place like home" will always have a
sense of purpose when coming back, and relative to the
aforementioned, Ms Danticat gives the readers something to digest.
Along the way she visits a cemetery and reveals what she thinks of
them: “I have always enjoyed cemeteries. Altars for the
living as well as resting places for the dead they are entryways, I
think to any town or city…the best places to become
acquainted with the tastes of the inhabitants, both present and
gone”.

She also references Jacmel’s uneven history via the landmarks
she remembered as a child; gives a detailed explanation of how the
masks and costumes play a major role based on age-old fables; and
revisits the hills and rainforests with stories supporting
political drama(s) relative thereof. The customs, social life, and
other ménage of experiences associated with carnival
represents an expressive attitude that inspires the people of this
proud nation a reason to shun struggle, forget present troubles and
escape to the wild hedonistic, but sexual suggestive party that
bring out carnal knowledge at its best.

The one thing that got my interest early on in this narrative is
the fact that she was scared off from celebrating the rituals
associated with this celebration by a family member. How she has
dealt with it over the years --- and the decision to face it was
this challenge is worthy reading. In the process she’s able
to rediscover herself and shed inhibitions in embracing this
festive time. Witness the reckless abandon as she describes the
freedom she now can express without remorse. I feel that readers
will feel as mesmerized as I was --- and feel as if you were there
too.

Reviewed by Alvin C. Romer on January 20, 2011

After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti
by Edwidge Danticat

  • Publication Date: August 6, 2002
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Travel
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Crown
  • ISBN-10: 0609609084
  • ISBN-13: 9780609609088