Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat (2019)

Everything Inside is a collection of short stories by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat.

Little Haiti in Miami, Florida

Edwidge Danticat Literary Fiction Short StoriesHaving left Haiti when she was twelve years to live in America, it’s not surprising that her stories involve a cast of characters with connections to her home country and a neighbourhood in Miami Dade County, Florida referred to as ‘Little Haiti’ after a Haitian pro-democracy activist wrote to a Miami newspaper referring to his new home as “Little Port-au-Prince” which was shortened and known thereafter as ‘Little Haiti’.

Many Haitians fled their country in the sixties and seventies, to escape the brutal dictatorship of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier.

The stories concern those who left, those who stayed, those who visited one place or another for a short time, those who belong, those who are trying to find their place, those who have found success by honest means and those who resorted to taking advantage of the vulnerable.

The Immigrant Dilemma, Stay or Return?

When the dictatorship in Haiti ended, so did a lot of marriages. This tension and divide is also explored within the stories.

There was a hard line between those who wanted to stay in America and others who wanted to go back and rebuild the country.

Exploring the connections that bind people together and the events that force them apart, they could be tales of any number of immigrant individuals or families. The clash of cultures shifts and evolves as immigrants find themselves seen as the other, if they stay too long and get too used to life elsewhere.

Character Driven Narratives

Everything Inside Hope Edwidge Danticat short stories Haiti

Photo by Sudipta Mondal on Pexels.com

There are eight contemplative, character driven stories that are slightly melancholic, that all represent some change in the status quo, but that each provide the prospect of hope.

This is the third book I’ve read by Edwidge Danticat and I enjoy the way she fuses the characters of her origin country with present day life in America and the intersection of the two.

It maps the slow beginnings of a divide between the generations, grandparents who have never met their grandchildren, business people trying to entice successful Haitians back to their motherland and the increasing disconnect between the two, as their worlds grow further apart. And the vulnerability of women who put their trust in another.

The stories were published over a twelve year period, so pick up on historical events that create turning points in her stories, the earthquake of 2010, the actions of foreign aid workers, and the elevated perception of North America.

Her debut novel Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) a story of four generations of women was excellent, as was the gripping memoir Brother, I’m Dying (2007) which focuses on the relationship between her father and her Uncle Joseph.

Further Reading

NY Times : Haitians May Leave Their Country, but It Never Leaves Them by Aminatta Forna

Review NPR: Coming to terms with loss and grief in ‘Everything Inside’ by Michael Schaub

N.B. This book was an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley.