The Royal Diaries: Anacaona, Golden Flower
Anacaona explores the life of a proud, young Taíno woman as she grows into rulership, love, and motherhood. This young adult novel provides wonderful insight into the first encounters between Columbus’s expeditions and the native people of the area that is now Haiti. Edwidge Danticat acknowledges that the Taíno had no written language, but her imagining of the diary Anacaona might have kept is rich and beautifully written. The reader follows Anacaona’s strategic decision to cede rulership of Xaraguá to her brother Behechio, and to marry Chief Caonabó to become cacica of Managua. She becomes a mother, and raising her daughter Higuamota and defending against the neighboring Kalinas seem like her biggest concerns until “men with pale skins” appear on her shores. The arrival of Columbus’s explorers marks a major turning point in the novel, and Danticat shifts from a languid, poetic style to a tense, high gear that makes it difficult to put the book down. Anacaona’s interactions with the white men are both plausible and insightful; they stay true to historical account, but Anacaona’s motives and thoughts are her own. Historical information on Anacaona and the Taínos’ fate is thoughtfully included at the end of the book.