One of the books I was most moved by this year was a very tiny book on a giant subject.
The Infamous Rosalie by Evelyne Trouillot tells, among others, the story of a midwife who carries a rope with seventy reminders of the children she’s killed at birth to keep them away from slavery. The book is a powerful meditation on impossible choices and their consequences. Embracing a singular and direct, fact-inspired narrative, the novel shows the individual experiences of ordinary women and men and the scars they bear from the horrors of slavery. One can never know what it is like to make certain choices unless one finds oneself in that very same position under the very same circumstances. This is perhaps why we are not always comfortable discussing some of the situations so masterfully portrayed in this book. The wounds, though inflicted long ago, are still there. We are still men. We are still women. We are still human, no matter how much some would want this not to be true. In the year of the incredible movie Twelve Years A Slave, this is one more narrative that tries to keep us from seeing the human beings who survived, and didn’t survive, slavery, as just an anonymous mass of victims. The book is set in pre-independence Haiti, but has echoes everywhere people have been held in bondage.
(Editor’s note: Danticat wrote the foreward to University of Nebraska Press’s 2013 edition of The Infamous Rosalie)
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