Review: Anacaona, Golden Flower

Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490 (The Royal Diaries)Anacaona, Golden Flower
by Edwidge Danticat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anacaona, Golden Flower / 0-439-49906-2

The Royal Diaries rarely disappoint, but "Anacaona" brings a new level of pleasure and depth to the series. Our heroine is realistically mature, as she navigates the waters of her unique culture and her own progress from child to young woman.

Anacaona's unique and fascinating culture is presented beautifully here. Her uncle, the ruler of their community, is one of the more admirable rulers in the series (as opposed to many of the European monarchs) and - while he is certainly not perfect - strives to understand his people and to govern fairly, kindly, and wisely. He trains his two potential successors (Anacaona and her brother) in all the work of the community, so that they will be wise rulers.

Anacaona's community is a unique look at a non-European community and is certain to stimulate young minds. Of particular interest is the custom of the village healer consuming his own remedies - imagine the increased empathy of the chemist who must sample his own potions, imagine the interest in learning and science which would have been stoked in the European dark ages if surgeons had to submit to their own knives and leeches alongside their patients! Although the idea may seem quaint and strange, it is hardly deniable that a doctor who must take his own medicine will be deeply interested in curing, rather than accidentally poisoning, his patients.

It is worth noting that this Royal Diary is unique among the series in that the narrator is married and gives birth over the course of the narrative. This is handled delicately, with judicious leaps in time to avoid details which might be deemed unsuitable for children - there is never any suggestion of Anacaona's marital behavior which led to her pregnancy.

Since this diary deals with the arrival of Europeans in Haiti, the novel takes a violent turn. The Europeans realistically murder and brutalize the population, including cutting off hands and shooting at small babies. The Europeans also force native women to (euphemistically) 'stay in their camp' with them - and it should be noted that these unfortunate women are accidentally slaughtered when the Haitians launch a counter-attack. Everything here is historically correct and, I believe, an important facet of history which should be known, but this book may be too violent for very small or sensitive children.

~ Ana Mardoll
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