Haitian Youth Illuminated In 'Sea Light'

Play associated audio

On her 7th birthday, a little girl named Claire disappears in a seaside Haitian village. Through Claire's fictional journey, award-winning author Edwidge Danticat shares glimmers of her own childhood in Haiti.

In Claire of the Sea Light, the protagonist's mother died during childbirth, and her father is a poor fisherman, struggling to make ends meet. Just moments before his daughter disappears, Claire's father had agreed to let a local woman adopt her in hopes of giving his daughter a better life.

Word of Claire's disappearance spreads through the village. From there, the reader is taken on a journey through time, connecting lives in unexpected ways.

Danticat tells Weekend Edition host Rachel Martin how her own experiences as a child in Haiti helped to shape this luminous young character.


Interview Highlights

On the characters as survivors of grief

"The way that they survive is by the sense of community that this town offers. One of these things that Claire's mother liked to say was "Fòk nou voye je youn sou lòt," "We must all look after each other." Because their town is so small, and they're sort of precariously always on the verge of instability, the healing comes through their healing as a community."

On Danticat's separation from her parents as a child

"We were not a family of means, and my parents, I think, had a difficult choice that a lot of parents have. I stayed behind with my uncle and his wife, and we grew up in a house that was full of children like us, cousins whose parents were in Canada, in the Dominican Republic. We had also grown up with a notion — and I think this is something I wanted to show in the book — that family is not always just mother, father. I didn't feel abandoned, you know, even at that young age. I understood that it was something my parents were doing to offer us a better opportunity."

On the sea as its own character

"I just fell in love with the idea of writing about the sea, and there are many proverbs the sea in Haitian Creole. You know, one is ... 'The sea doesn't hide dirt,' and proverbs about, you know, 'My back is as large as the sea,' which is something you say if people start talking badly about you. And, of course, for a lot of people in terms of migration, the sea is also the way out. So, you have an island and you have the sea, and it's extraordinarily fascinating to me."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

WAMU 88.5

Your Turn: Sexual Assault, Nate Parker And More

Director Nate Parker's college rape case is resurfacing and putting off would-be fans of his highly anticipated film "The Birth of a Nation." What do Washingtonians think?

NPR

Minnesota Cracks Down On Neonic Pesticides, Promising Aid To Bees

Minnesota's governor has ordered new restrictions on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been blamed for killing bees. Many details of the plan, however, remain to be worked out.
WAMU 88.5

Donald Trump’s Immigration Plan And His Visit To Mexico

Donald Trump lays out a plan for immigration after a meeting with Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto. An update on the Republican presidential nominee’s proposals on immigration, illegal drugs and trade.

WAMU 88.5

Results From Congressional Primary Races And New Concerns About Hacks Into State Voting Systems

Join us to discuss results from primary challenges to Republican Senator John McCain, Democratic Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz and others and new concerns possible Russian hackers breaking into U.S. state voting systems.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.