In four sections—Childhood, Migration, First Generation, and Return—the contributors to this anthology write powerfully, often hauntingly, of their lives in Haiti and the United States. Jean-Robert Cadet's description of his Haitian childhood as a restavec—a child slave—in Port-au-Prince contrasts with Dany Laferriere's account of a ten-year-old boy and his beloved grandmother in Petit-Gove. We read of Marie Helene Laforest's realization that while she was white in Haiti, in the United States she is black. Patricia Benoit tells us of a Haitian woman refugee in a detention center who has a simple need for a red dress—dignity. The reaction of a man who has married the woman he loves is the theme of Gary Pierre-Pierre's "The White Wife"; the feeling of alienation is explored in "Made Outside" by Francie Latour. The frustration of trying to help those who have remained in Haiti and of the do-gooders who do more for themselves than the Haitians is described in Babette Wainwright's "Do Something for Your Soul, Go to Haiti." The variations and permutations of the divided self of the Haitian emigrant are poignantly conveyed in this unique anthology.
- Publisher's Weekly
The experience of Haitian migr s in what novelist Danticat (Krik? Krak!; etc.) calls the "tenth" geographical "department" of Haiti--"the floating homeland, the ideological one, which joined all Haitians living in the dyaspora"--is the theme of this collection of 33 spare and evocative essays and poems. Most of these writers fled political instability as children and describe the dual reality of alienation from yetbelonging to two worlds, forging an identity separate from that of their parents in the new country, while at the same time continuing to wait for stability in the old country. Nik l Payen tells of her experience as a U.S. Justice Department-sponsored interpreter who uses her knowledge of Krey l ("the language whose purpose in life up until now had been to pain and confuse me") as "an asset" to translate for refugees waiting in horrific conditions at Guantanamo Naval Base following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When she witnesses the return of some of these Haitians--denied entrance to the U.S.--she likens their journey to the African Middle Passage. In another, Marie-H l ne Laforest, whose lighter skin color and family's wealth made her "white" in Haiti, realizes that she is simply black in America and later forges a third identity in Italy. Francie Latour, a journalist, convinces her American newspaper to send her to Haiti with a noble aim, but ends up "hitting a cultural wall" and being viewed as a "traitor" by her native people. This rich collection of writings will appeal to the growing number of Haitian-Americans and others interested in the question of the migr 's sense of identity. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Danticat, author of the award-winning Breath, Eyes, Memory, has brought together numerous poems, essays, stories, and letters by individuals whose Haitian experiences helped shape them. The definition of the "diaspora" given recently by the Haitian Embassy's Gerard Alphonse Ferere is "any dispersal of people to foreign soils." But in Danticat's introduction, we also learn that the "dyaspora" is the "floating homeland, the ideological one, join[ing] all Haitians living in the dyaspora." Poet Marc Christophe leads the selections with a poem on the sensory Haiti he remembers, "the heated voice of peasant men/ who caress the earth/ with their fertile hands/ the supple steps of peasant women/ on top of the dew." In the chapter on migration, we learn about Gary Pierre-Pierre's interracial marriage and the reactions to it. Martine Bury tells a similar story in her essay, "You and Me Against the World." The selections are varied, colorful, and interesting. Recommended for all libraries.--Barbara O'Hara, Free Lib. of Philadelphia Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.