Study Guide

Breath, Eyes, Memory Identity

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Sophie's story's a classic (though traumatic) coming-of-age narrative. She is a young girl thrust from her familiar environment into a situation that makes her grow up super quickly.

But her development takes a long, slow, and painful arc. She has to grapple with a hyphenated existence (Haitian-American), knowing very well that her mother wants to keep her isolated from mainstream American culture.

She also has to face the painful facts surrounding her birth and accept that as long as she's around, her mother will still feel the psychological pain of that old violation. Finding the value in herself under these circumstances feels impossible, but Sophie knows where she has to go to figure out who she truly is: home.

Questions About Identity

  1. In what ways does leaving Haiti change Sophie's view of herself?
  2. How does Sophie's return to Haiti give her perspective on her adult life?
  3. In what ways do the differences between their families' cultures affect the relationship between Joseph and Sophie?
  4. How well does Sophie assimilate to life in the U.S.? How does that affect her understanding of herself as part of a new country?

Chew on This

Abuse shapes the characters' personalities in this novel, but it also characterizes the national story of Haiti.

Sophie's concept of her identity is complex and often confusing for her, but she finds clarity in the folktales and songs handed down by her family.

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