‘New York Day Women’ by Edwidge Danticat

New York Day Women by Edwidge Danticat, 1996

The magic trick:

Demonstrating the narrator’s condescension toward her mother early in the narrative and then using the plot to shape that attitude into respect

The story begins with the narrator relating thing her mother says, mixed with some backstory about the woman. It’s clear the narrator has a condescending attitude toward her mother. She is urbane, while her mother is an ignorant homebody who doesn’t really understand the ways of America. She is old. She is an immigrant.

Funny thing happens in the middle of the story, though. The narrator is stunned to realize that she didn’t know as much about her mother as she thought, and in the process that condescension turns into humility and respect. And that’s quite a trick on Danticat’s part.

The selection:

Why should we give to Goodwill when there are so many people back home who need clothes? We save our clothes for the relatives in Haiti.

Twenty years we have been saving all kinds of things for the relatives in Haiti. I need the place in the garage for an exercise bike.

You pretty enough to be a stewardess. Only dogs like bones.

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