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5. The women in your family have never lost touch with one another.
Death is a path we take to meet on the other side.
This passage, spoken by the narrator of the epilogue, “Women Like Us,”
reveals the strong bond Haitian women feel with their female relatives. The
women in these stories feel very close even to the relatives who have died
because they all have suffered many of the same things. In Haiti, poverty
and political oppression have been constants for centuries, so generation
after generation of Haitian women have had to deal with similar problems. In
“Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” Josephine and her mother perform rituals to honor
her grandmother, who was slaughtered by a cruel government, until
Josephine’s mother is also imprisoned and essentially killed by the police.
The chain of suffering continues with Josephine’s daughter, Marie, in
“Between the Pool and the Gardenias,” when her insanity, caused by her
despair, results in her arrest and probable death in prison. Marie, like
Josephine and many of the women in the collection, turns to the ghosts of
her female ancestors for comfort. The female bond in families also helps to
perpetuate Haitian tradition, as Grace learns in “Caroline’s Wedding.”
The Haitian belief that women are tied to their dead female ancestors
also provides a way of coping with death. In a world where death is easier
than life, whether because of imprisonment, hunger, or despair, as in the
case of Lili from “A Wall of Fire Rising,” viewing death as a source of
happiness brings comfort. When the Haitian women in Danticat’s stories die,
they expect to be reunited with their female ancestors, and they often sense
the ghosts of those ancestors communicating with them. The narrator of the
epilogue hopes to channel these communications into her stories, thus
providing an outlet for the suffering she has inherited from her female
ancestors. The suffering they share is so strong that it deserves to be
expressed, and she hopes to do this through her writing. Because her female
ancestors can speak from beyond the grave, death is not an end of life but
rather a source of relief from earthly pain.