Seven by Edwidge Danticat, 2001
The magic trick:
Humanizing and personalizing the immigrant experience
This is the best story of hers I’ve ever read.
It’s amazing – and sad – how relevant this 2001 story remains. I’m writing this post at the outset of the Trump administration (hopefully you’re reading this today looking back on the impeachment-shortened Trump administration), where the immigrant experience is legislatively being made as painful and difficult as possible.
Important then to note in this story that we are reading the happy ending. This is a success story. The Haitian couple here has survived seven years apart before finally reuniting in Brooklyn.
But it’s difficult. They only spent one night together as a married couple before their separation. They didn’t know each other that well then, and they certainly don’t know each other now. There are unspoken secrets that collected during the interim.
This is an immigrant experience at its most personal level. If we got the story of a couple isolated by political decisions, it might hurt but it would almost be expected. Same thing if we got the story of a couple facing brutal violence and poverty in their newly adopted home.
To read about an immigrant couple with the focus on their nuanced emotional barriers, well, that makes an even greater impact, I think. They aren’t stereotypes. They’re not victims. They’re just struggling humans. And that’s quite a trick on Edwidge’s part.
She remembered, she said. It was just that she looked so desperate, as if she were trying to force him to remember her.
“I never forgot you for an instant,” he said.
She said she was thirsty.
“What do you want to drink?” He listed the juices he had purchased from the Cuban grocer down the street, the combinations he was sure she’d be craving, papaya and mango, guava and pineapple, cherimoya and passion fruit.
“Just a little water,” she said. “Cold.”
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