Edwidge Danticat's Reading List on Haiti
Written by
Jean Casella
January 2010
Written by
Jean Casella
January 2010
One of the reasons I am so passionate about reading (and publishing) literature in translation is this: I believe it enhances not only our knowledge of other cultures, but our ability to identify and empathize with members of those cultures; it enlarges our souls as well as our minds. After making a donation to the relief effort in Haiti (which, as Wilson suggested in her earlier post, has to be the first priority), She Writes members might want to take a look at the suggested reading/listening list composed by Haitian American writer Edwidge Danticat, published today in the Wall Street Journal. Here's an excerpt from the introduction to the list, written by Christopher John Farley: In this time of tragedy for Haiti, it’s worth noting that the country’s culture is far deeper than the bleak reports currently blanketing the news. Danticat’s writing has long sought to capture the joys and challenges of Haitian life. “Kirk? Krak!” offered up short stories about everyday Haitians, conjuring up the voices of prostitutes, plantation workers and refugees at sea. In her nonfiction book “After the Dance,” Danticat writes of being swept up in carnival festivities in Haiti: “In that brief space and time, the carnival offers all the paradoxical elements I am craving: anonymity, jubilant community, and belonging.” Danticat took the time today to recommend some books and music that people who are interested in Haitian history and arts should seek out in order to place the current disaster in a broader context. Women writers are well represented on Danticat's list. I can join her in reccommending these two books by women--one journalism, one fiction, and both are brilliant. And of course, Danticat's own books should be on the list as well, from her beautiful debut novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory through her most recent memoir. * “The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier,” by Amy Wilentz: This nonfiction book documents the period between 1986-1989 when Haitian dictator Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was forced to flee the country and mass strikes, government-sponsored vigilante groups, and other kinds of chaos swept though the streets. The book, which blends current events with cultural history, seeks to detail the society beyond the headlines. * “Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy” by Marie Vieux-Chauvet: This triptych of novellas, recently published in English with an introduction by Danticat, was initially suppressed when it was first released in French in 1968 during François “Papa Doc” Duvalier’s Haitian reign of terror. The trilogy offers portraits of people struggling to survive dictatorship and oppression. “Hurricanes, earthquakes and drought, nothing spares us,” says the narrator of the first novella, titled “Love.”

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  • Susan Katz Miller

    This is a great list, thank you for pointing the way. I just wrote a post recommending two classic books on Haitian Vodou--one by a woman. Check it out...http://onbeingboth.wordpress.com/

  • LaTonya

    I love Danticat. Will have to come back to this. Thanks so much posting this.

  • Michele Wucker

    Jean, thank you for posting this. Edwidge Danticat's own writing, of course, is a fantastic starting point. Her recent memoir, "Brother, I'm Dying," includes the tragic story of her uncle's death in a US immigration detention facility --an example of the horrendous policies that have targeted Haitians, and of why the Obama administration's decision to grant Temporary Protected Status yesterday was long overdue. "The Farming of Bones" is a novel about the 1937 massacre that I mentioned in my Rachel Maddow appearance.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Jean, as always, informative, thoughtful and a call to arms -- or in this case, to understanding. Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Maureen E. Doallas

    Last night, I posted a piece, "Haiti Stories by Edwidge Danticat", on my blog, Writing Without Paper. Just a few minutes ago I posted "Simply This for Haiti" (http://writingwithoutpaper.blogspot.com/2010/01/simply-this-for-haiti.html), which also includes links to all my other posts about Haiti.

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Jean, I'm so glad you've posted this. Thank you for sharing Danticat's list with all of us here.