Having read three of Edwidge Danticat’s previous novels, I think you could call me a fan of hers. But this is my first foray into her short fiction, and with her new collection of stories, collectively titled “Everything Inside,” Danticat proves that she has equal mastery over both the long and short forms.
As with some of her other work, this collection gives voice to and provides commentary about Haiti’s diaspora. It is difficult to speak about short story collections in anything but the broadest of terms, but there are common themes. Although Danticat provides a range of perspectives, and there are marked differences between the multitude of protagonists on display here, all the characters are, at their core, preoccupied with the same things. They must navigate complex platonic, romantic or familial relationships, and yet Danticat’s focus is also political. For, in addition to these, comparatively, more common themes, all of Danticat’s protagonists grapple with the complex relationships between themselves and their countries.
Although most, if not all, of these stories were previously published in different forms, looking at the stories together is well worth the time and effort. Over the course of the collection, Danticat explores myriad issues relating to the Haitian diaspora with nuance and skill. Her compassionate yet critical gaze, as always, gives readers a much-needed look at Haitian identity, exploring the very complex love of country that emerges when history has not been kind to your nation.
Considerable intellectual props aside, though, all the stories here are poignant and blatantly emotional. Both thematically and stylistically, “Everything Inside” has much in common with Jhumpa Lahiri’s much-lauded collection “Interpreter of Maladies,” and it feels as though nothing essential is left out. Though the stories are short, they never feel rushed or hurried, and readers will feel that they know all of the protagonists intimately once they are finished.
While this collection is specifically about the Haitian diaspora, it also illuminates the human condition more generally, acknowledging the very particular difficulties that arise when people straddle multiple cultures and showing the astonishing love of which we are all capable.