Danticat wrote a modern-day story about a family separated by immigration. Mama’s Nightingale is set in the United States where her mother doesn’t have her citizenship papers. Saya longed for her mother to return home. She cried when she saw her mother at the prison knowing that her mother could not come home because her mother did not have the right citizenship papers. Saya’s parents remained strong for her, and they give her love and positive words to keep her strong. When Saya learns about the power of words, she used her writing to set her mother free. Immigration interrupts families’ lives daily. Danticat and illustrator Leslie Staub displays a story of hope and resilience. Throughout the story, Staub illustrates a nightingale, which reminds of the protection that it brings to Saya and her family.
“I chose this story because it is real. Families are being separated because of immigration. When you look in the news and in the media, immigration happens quite a bit. Immigration separates many families. People want the same immigration reform because a lot of families have to choose to stay with their kids or get deported with them. It is a tough one it is a reality. This story is similar to my own because I was separated from my family. We did not have the right papers.”
The character Saya was torn up about her family’s separation. She remembered her mother by from recordings such as “Yon istwa dodo pou Saya.” The recording kept her asleep at night because it was her spirit coming to her. The stories of her families native tounge draws Saya to fight for her mother. Danticat as a Haitian author writes books to educate children.
She wrote this story from her own. “I used my own personal story because it rings true to Saya’s story. Children and parents who are separated from their family are torn a part. Particularly a lot of kids can see the truthfulness in this story.
I would love for kids to learn non-tolerance. This story teaches about the power in words. In Mama’s Nightingale, her mother uses her words to keep her daughter inspired. The little girl uses her words to inspire change. For example, she writes to the newspapers. I think with immigration there are a lot of unwanted bodies. The more individual stories that we hear from, the better.”
If you are a person of color, you are writing a story, you are writing a story about yourself, you are not saying “oh I’m not writing a book about diversity.” You take your own complexity humanity, and diversity for granted. I think what’s most important for people like us to tell your own stories. Whether it is school children or making opportunities for persons of color. As consumers of books, we have a responsibility to get those books into classrooms. We should find their books and attend their events. We have to find more diverse voices so that the landscape becomes that way.
You can learn more about Edwidge Danticat and her story online.