Title: BREATH, EYES, MEMORY - Rare Fine Copy of The...
Publisher: New York City, NY: Soho Press, 1994
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author
Edition: 1st Edition.
1st Printing. Signed. 234 pages. Published in 1994. The author's debut novel. Now considered a contemporary classic. The First Hardcover Edition. Precedes and should not be confused with all other subsequent editions. Published in a small and limited first print run as a hardcover original only. The First Edition is now scarce. Presents Edwidge Danticat's "Breath, Eyes, Memory". Her first book. Danticat was 24 years old when her book appeared, prompting comparisons to Toni Morrison, Mary McCarthy, and Maxine Hong Kingston. The Haiti-born writer has since lived up to her early promise as a writer of limpid and luminous prose. Danticat is The Real Thing: A writer without a "message", but with a sensibility, mastery of the English language, and acute powers of observation and insight distinctly her own. Every book by Edwidge Danticat is quietly enthralling. It blows away the shallow and self-indulgent life stories of her fellow American writers, and deserves to be read by anyone who still cares about writing as literature. An absolute "must-have" title for Edwidge Danticat collectors. This copy is very boldly and beautifully signed in black pen-marker on the title page by Edwidge Danticat. It is signed directly on the page itself, not on a tipped-in page or bookplate. This comes with the Brooklyn Book Festival Author's Bookmark and the festival's Souvenir Program. This title is a contemporary classic. This is one of few such signed copies of the First Hardcover Edition/First Printing still available online and is in especially fine condition: Clean, crisp, and bright, a pristine beauty. A scarce signed copy thus. Winner of the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation Grant in 1998 for "The Farming of Bones". Finalist for the National Book Award in 2007 for "Brother, I'm Dying". Selected by The New Yorker Magazine as one of the "Twenty Writers for the 21st Century". Winner of the MacArthur Genius Grant in 2009. One of the most brilliant American writers of our time. A fine copy. (SEE ALSO OTHER EDWIDGE DANTICAT TITLES IN OUR CATALOG) ISBN 1569470057. Bookseller Inventory # 18518
Synopsis: Leaving her native Haiti, young Sophie journeys to New York, where she grows up and marries, always tormented by her Haitian past and other problems, problems that lead her to a Santeria exorcism. A first novel.
Review: Oprah Book Club® Selection, May 1998: "I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tears in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to." The place is Haiti and the speaker is Sophie, the heroine of Edwidge Danticat's novel, "Breath, Eyes, Memory." Like her protagonist, Danticat is also Haitian; like her, she was raised in Haiti by an aunt until she came to the United States at age 12. Indeed, in her short stories, Danticat has often drawn on her background to fund her fiction, and she continues to do so in her debut novel.
The story begins in Haiti, on Mother's Day, when young Sophie discovers that she is about to leave the only home she has ever known with her Tante Atie in Croix-des-Rosets, Haiti, to go live with her mother in New York City. These early chapters in Haiti are lovely, subtly evoking the tender, painful relationship between the motherless child and the childless woman who feels honor bound to guard the natural mother's rights to the girl's affections above her own. Presented with a Mother's Day card, Tante Atie responds: "'It is for a mother, your mother.' She motioned me away with a wave of her hand. 'When it is Aunt's Day, you can make me one.'" Danticat also uses these pages to limn a vibrant portrait of life in Haiti from the cups of ginger tea and baskets of cassava bread served at community potlucks to the folk tales of a "people in Guinea who carry the sky on their heads."
With Sophie's transition from a fairly happy existence with her aunt and grandmother in rural Haiti to life in New York with a mother she has never seen, Danticat's roots as a short-story writer become more evident; "Breath, Eyes, Memory" begins to read more like a collection of connected stories than a seamlessly evolved novel. In a couple of short chapters, Sophie arrives in New York, meets her mother, makes the acquaintance of her mother's new boyfriend, Marc, and discovers that she was the product of a rape when her mother was a teenager in Haiti. The novel then jumps several years ahead to Sophie's graduation from high school and her infatuation with an older man who lives next door. Unfortunately, this is also the point in the novel where Danticat begins to lay her themes on with a trowel instead of a brush: Sophie's mother becomes obsessed with protecting her daughter's virginity, going so far as to administer physical "tests" on a regular basis--testing which leads eventually to a rift in their relationship and to Sophie's struggle with her own sexuality. Soon the litany of victimization is flying thick and fast: female genital mutilation, incest, rape, frigidity, breast cancer, and abortion are the issues that arise in the final third of the novel, eventually drowning both fine writing and perceptive characterization under a deluge of angst.
Still, there is much to admire about "Breath, Eyes, Memory," and if at times the plot becomes overheated, Danticat's lyrical, vivid prose offers some real delight. If nothing else, this novel is sure to entice readers to look for Danticat's short stories--and possibly to sample other fiction from the West Indies as well. --Alix Wilber
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