With Edwidge Danticat being Haitian, she's been quite prominent over recent days, but I have to confess I'd never heard of her. Haitian literature was something I'd never even considered, and in fact, I don't know very much about the country itself (something I think I may have to remedy judging from this story). I just thought it was timely to read this story now, and hopefully might serve as an introduction to a Danticat novel at some point.
The scene is set with Pascal and his family living in the area called Bel-Air, which he describes himself as 'a mid-level slum'. It is not over-run with gangs, but it does have one major gang active in the area. His family run a restaurant in the area, but that has also become central to the gangs activities. Working for the radio station Pascal decides he would like to pitch an idea for a radio show based on Gang members sharing their exploits (for want of a better word). Understandably, this is turned down, but then when a similar show is broadcast anyway it sets in place a series of events that lead to the radio station being burnt down and Pascal being arrested for the crime.
As to where it goes from there, that would probably be giving too much away. Suffice to say, it's a pretty no holds barred expose of corruption and gang predominance in almost all aspects of Haitian life, and culture. The whole story is a fairly grim description of life in Haiti. From what I've read, the gang warfare, bribery and corruption are a pretty normal part of life and if so, some of the comments in this story are pretty chilling.
"The officers were laughing even as he hiccupped and sobbed. To his ear, there was no difference between their laughter, their taunting, and that of Tiye and his crew. They could all have switched places, and no one would notice."
"One day, it might occur to someone, someone angry and powerful, someone obsessive and maniacal—a police chief or a gang leader, a leader of the opposition or a leader of the nation—that they, and all those who lived like them or near them, would be better off dead."
I think this is what I found most interesting about this story. The unfairness, violence and brutality is talked about through the whole story with a sense of acceptance, not outrage. No-one is surprised, and everyone just seems to get on with life, working around the issues of gangs and brutality. The setting and political climate is described perfectly, and the lack of horror in the characters reactions to events seems only to highlight the horror I felt.