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cover The Farming of Bones

by Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat explores the sensitive history between Haitians and Dominicans in her historical novel, The Farming of Bones, set during the Haitian massacre of 1937.

The novel provides a remarkable panorama of what life was like for Haitians in the Dominican Republic, at a time when the lines between the two countries weren’t so clearly drawn. One of the most interesting groups we learn about are the non-vwayajé Haitians, older middle-class Haitian families who had lived in the Dominican Republic for several generations. Some of them actually took Dominican spouses and spoke both Spanish and Kreyól.

At the beginning of the novel, relations between Haitian migrant workers and Dominicans are somewhat amicable. However by the middle of the novel, relations are very tense because the region is becoming a true political border in the sense that it was meant to keep the two people apart. Previously, people seemed to share a more peaceful, if unequal existence. Dominicans mistreated Haitian laborers, yet they tolerated them as long as they served a role as workers.

One of the greatest contributions of this work is the picture it paints of what it was like to live under the Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo. Trujillo’s influence was quite strong and he demanded complete loyalty from his followers. More importantly, however, Trujillo’s dictatorship was extremely cruel and bloody, especially with regard to Haitians. With Trujillo comes a wave of anti-Haitian sentiment.

After Trujillo’s order to massacre all Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, Amabelle, the novel's manin character is forced to flee and try to re-assemble her life in her native land. The title of the "The Farming of Bones" may come from a Haitian worker's saying: "travay tè pou zo" which (very) loosely translated, means when you work on the plantation, you turn to bones.

The Farming of Bones is a valuable contribution not only to literature, but to history as well. Danticat is truly a gifted writer.

2001 © All Rights Reserved

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