In the midst of More Important Things, and sometimes instead of them (after all--is there EVER an end to the MITs?), I have here and there been entering favourite books into my virtual library on LibraryThing. (An activity people are as likely to respond to with, "Why on earth would you want to do that?" as with "Oh, that sounds wonderful!") (You see now how the world is divided up?)
In the last few days (while I'm supposed to refrain from typing because my arms are hurting) I've entered twenty or so books about, or set, in Haiti. Most are nonfiction, but a few are novels or collections of short stories. A couple are folktales or YA literature. It has been a great pleasure to go over these books again in my mind, to reconnect them with their titles and author names, where I had forgotten them, to assemble them with each other in a dear library of books borrowed, given, or purchased. I look forward to remembering and entering and rediscovering many of the books that I have read and let go. And to discovering more, as my thirst for books on Haiti is reawakened.
Yesterday I began reading The Festival of the Greasy Pole, by René Depestre, a book I have had for awhile and haven't read. It occurred to me later that this, being February, is Black History Month. In honour of this fine book and that celebration, I want to share my humble list as it so far exists, and an invitation to a reading (if you happen to be in Vancouver, BC) given by my friend Addena Sumter-Freitag and two other local authors at Britannia Library on 18 February 2009. (Details below.)
A brief note about the list:
Most of the books on this list I have enjoyed or found useful in one way or another and would recommend. A couple I had trouble with because of unnecessarily academic language--language which made the ideas hard to understand and the writing difficult to plod through.
When you consider that the majority of people in or concerned about Haiti are not English-speaking academics, it seems rudely elitist to me to truss potentially important ideas about that place in jargon that non-academics (like me!) find mind-numbing.
A word to the listening, therefore, from my biased but doubtlessly reasonable point of view:
Yes! Research your thesis. Struggle to write what you have observed and done and concluded and recommend. Publish it. Defend it. Then translate it, at the very least into common English. You don't need to hire anyone for that; you can do it yourself. Best of all, if you are able, translate your book into Haitian Creole.If you aren't fluent in the language yourself, can you find someone to do it for you? If it's a work you think is of value to Haiti, wouldn't it be wonderful if it was available to the people to whom it would mean the most? (I know, I know. If only we had such money...) (And if there is a reader out there eager to translate my short stories into Creole I'd love to talk!)
Have a look below at the invitation to Addena's reading, at the bottom of which you will find My Haiti Book List. Suggestions of wonderful books to do with Haiti are always welcome (as are donations of such books!).
Other, more thorough lists of books related to Haiti can be found, of course. Primary are the lists to be found on Bob Corbett's site. Start with Haiti: Book Reviews. If you are interested in buying, check out his Books For Sale. Ebony Grigsby of Tampa, Florida, lists Haiti books suitable for K-12 on Amazon. For books in French, as well as aids for learning Creole, try The Haitian Book Centre. For books of interest to those wishing to aid Haiti and other countries, books that will help you know what is needed, see Sharon Gaskell's list (hi, Sharon!) at Starthrower Foundation. Books for Understanding has a list of books on Haitian history.
One disappointing note, the French Caribbean Restaurant on Columbia Street in New Westminster has closed its doors permanently.
Have a wonderful Black History Month, everyone.
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Wednesday February 18
Join us for our 4th annual celebration featuring music, poetry, film and more.
Special guests include Addena Sumter-Freitag.