Haitian Author Danticat Describes City Hit By Quake

Author Edwidge Danticat, who was born in Haiti's capital city Port-au-Prince, reads an excerpt from her book After the Dance to celebrate another earthquake-devastated city there, Jacmel.

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GUY RAZ, host:

We've been hearing a lot about Port-au-Prince this hour and over the last few days, but the port city of Jacmel is in trouble as well. The epicenter of the earthquake was right between Jacmel and Port-au-Prince, but the only road into Jacmel has been blocked, so very little relief has come in.

Now, that city is the site of a huge carnival each year, a spectacle described by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat in her book, "After the Dance." We asked her to read an excerpt from the book, and in it she's sitting in a cafe watching the television coverage of the carnival a day later.

Ms. EDWIDGE DANTICAT (Author, "After the Dance"): (Reading) Halfway through our meal, I spot myself briefly on the television screen. I am inside one of those small groups with handheld instrument, a bonape(ph), and we're singing a popular song about someone who loses a hat on the road between the town and the valley of Jacmel.

(Singing foreign language)

(Reading) I leave the town of Jacmel, the song begins, to go to the valley. While arriving at Bene crossroads, my panama hat fell down. My panama hat fell down, my panama hat fell down. Those who come behind me, please pick it up for me.

This had been one of my favorite songs as a child, even before I had ever been to Jacmel. Seeing myself sing it now on that television screen, my head cocked back, my arms draped around people I didn't even know, I had a strange feeling of detachment. Was that really me, so unencumbered, so lively, so free? So, it did happen after all. I had really been there. I had really been in Jacmel.

And even as others had been putting on their masks for carnival, just for one afternoon, I had allowed myself to remove my own.

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RAZ: That's author Edwidge Danticat reading from her memoir, "After the Dance," about memories of a carnival in the Haitian city of Jacmel.

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RAZ: We'll be covering the developments in Haiti all weekend long - the relief and recovery efforts. On our Web site, you can see a gallery of images from NPR staff photographer David Gilkey, who's in Port-au-Prince. They're at npr.org. And if you'd like to get involved in relief efforts, we've got a collection of resources at our Web site, that's NPR.org, and just click How to Help.

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RAZ: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. Thanks for listening.

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