Behind the Mountains Booktalk
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
New York City and Haiti are worlds apart. Celiane and her family knew how to live in Haiti, but will they be able to survive in New York as well?
It has been five long years since Papa left to go and live in New York City, promising to send for us soon, but finally things are changing. It is all because of the elections and the bombs, and one specific bomb that hit the bus Manman and I were riding in. We had gone to Port au Prince to visit Papa’s sister, who’s a nurse, for two reasons. One was to find out if she had been able to get any more information on when my older brother, Moy, and we could join Papa. The other was so Manman could go to the doctor and find out why she was so tired all the time. Tante Rose told us she was talking to people, but that we still needed to be patient. The doctor told Manman that she had “tired blood,” and needed to eat watercress and liver, and get more rest. Moy went back home to take care of our animals, but Tante Rose persuaded Manman and me to stay another day. That’s why we left a day late, why we were on the bus hit by the bomb, and why we were in New York only weeks later, our injuries barely healed.
Our lives are different now. Before, I went to school with Madame Auguste, and I was the number one student in the class. I had friends with whom I could share everything, my grandparents lived nearby, and on some weekends, Manman, Moy, and I made candies for Manman to sell at the farmer’s market. Every month a tape came from Papa, and he told us how things were going with him, and every month we sent a tape back to him, telling him how much we missed him. I knew someday we would go to New York, but I had no way of knowing how different and difficult it would be for all of us. I go to school in a big gray building, and I’m part of a special class, and all of our lessons are in Creole. But no one will talk to me, and I am too shy to make friends. I am very lonely. Manman struggles to learn to cook on a stove, and burns things because she doesn’t know how to adjust the heat. At first we were all so happy to be together, but now it hurts when I hear Manman and Papa quarrel. What will happen to us? Will we ever be a happy family again?
This Booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.