With her signature narrative grace, Edwidge Danticat brings Haiti’s beautiful queen Anacaona to life. Queen Anacaona was the wife of one of her island’s rulers, and a composer of songs and poems, making her popular among her people. Haiti was relatively quiet until the Spanish conquistadors discovered the island and began to settle there in 1492. The Spaniards treated the natives very cruelly, and when the natives revolted, the Spanish governor of Haiti ordered the arrests of several native nobles, including Anacaona, who was eventually captured and executed, to the horror of her people.
Edwidge Danticat has been a favorite author of mine for many years–Breath, Eyes, Memory and Farming of Bones are beautiful, beautiful books. I recently visited Haiti on a cruise to the Caribbean, and even though I was on a “tourist beach,” I was totally struck by the absolute beauty of the island. I can’t get it out of my head, how green and lush it was. Those were the images I was imagining when I was reading Anacaona.
This book is short, written in a diary format–perfect for middle grade kids. It shares the story of a Taíno queen and her life leading up to the first landing of Spanish Conquistadors. Anacaona’s tale is that of strength and choice, family and love of country. Perhaps add it to your reading list and/or curriculum for Indigenous People’s Day–this is a point of view we definitely didn’t get when I was in school, and I wish we had.