Thursday, February 12, 2009

Black History Month & Haiti Booklist (Plus a Note to Academics Writing About Haiti)

René Depestre

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 sha
re 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!)

Rant complete.

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.


Celebrate Black History Month!
A program open to all ages

Wednesday February 18
7:00 pm-
8:30 pm

Join us for our 4th annual celebration featuring music, poetry, film and more.

Special guests include Addena Sumter-Freitag.

Britannia Branch
1661 Napier Street

Photo by Shelley Whitehead

Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn,
Karen McCarthy Brown

2001 anthropology, Haiti, Vodou**** Tears through a lot of misconceptions.
Gives insight into Haitian culture, the religion of
Vodou and its importance in the community, and into an individual of real character.

Finding Creatures & Other Stories,
C. June WOLF

     I'm not rating it. I'll let other readers decide!

The Tainos: Rise and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus,
Irving Rouse

1993 archaeology, colonialism, Columbus, Haiti, slavery, Taino****

The Kingdom of This World: A Novel, Alejo Carpentier

Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti,
Frances Temple

1991 Aristide, Haiti, poverty, YA*****A reminder of the
strength of courage of Haiti.

Reflections of Loko Miwa,
Lilas Desquiron

1998 Haiti, Vodou, women, zombie***

The Sun, the Sea, a Touch of Wind,
Rosa Guy

1996 art, Haiti, mental illness, women*****

Fever Season,
Barbara Hambly

1998 African-American history, fever, Haiti, Louisiana, mullato class, racism****

Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou,
Donald J. Cosentino

1995 art, Haiti, lwa, religion, ritual, spirits, Vodou****

The Beast of the Haitian Hills,
Philippe and Pierre Thoby-Marcelin

1964 class conflict, greed, Haiti, lwa, ritual, spirits, Vodou***

Lydia Bailey,
Roberts Kenneth

1947 American role in Haitian revolution, Dessalines, fiction, Haiti, Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L'Ouverture***

The Uses of Haiti,
Paul Farmer

2003 colonialism, foreign control, France, Haiti, history, poverty, racism, slavery, United States*****

Voodoo in Haiti,
Alfred Métraux

1959 anthropology, Haiti, religion, Vodou, Voodoo*****

The butterfly's way : voices from the Haitian dyaspora in the United States,
Edwidge Danticat

2001 creative nonfiction, fiction, Haiti****

Breath, eyes, memory,
Edwidge Danticat

1994 fiction, Haiti***1/2

The farming of bones : a novel,
Edwidge Danticat

1998 fiction, Haiti***1/2

Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti,
Maya Deren

1983 anthropology, Haiti, religion, Vodou, Voodoo*****

Haiti, History, and the Gods,
Colin Dayan

1998 Haiti, religion, Vodou, Voodoo**

Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Vodou and Civil Strife in Haiti,
Kathie Klarreich

2005 Haiti***

Life in a Haitian Valley,
Melville Jean, Herskovits

1971 culture, Haiti, history, religion, social structure, Vodou, Voodoo*****

All Souls' Rising,
Madison Smartt Bell

1995 fiction, Haiti, history, revolution*****

The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier,
Amy Wilentz

1989 Aristide, Haiti, history*****

Open Gate,

2001 bilingual, Creole poetry, Haiti*****

When the hands are many : community organization and social change in rural Haiti,
Jennie Marcelle Smith

2001 community organization, Haiti***

Christophe, King of Haiti,
Hubert Cole

1970 Haiti, Henri Christophr, history, Roi Christophe****

Voodoo: Search for the Spirit,
Laennec Hurbon

1995 Haiti, religion, Vodou, Voodoo*****

Haitian Vodou Flags,
Patrick Arthur Polk

1998 Flags, Haiti, Vodou, Vodou Flags****

Voodoo and the art of Haiti,
Sheldon Williams

1969 Art, Haiti, Haitian Art, Vodou, Voodoo***

Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance,
Beverly Bell

2001 Haiti, women*****

Masters of the Dew,
Jacques Roumain

1971 fiction, Haiti*****

The Comedians,
Graham Greene

1967 dictatorship, fiction, Haiti****

The Festival of the Greasy Pole,
René Depestre

1990 dictatorship, Duvalier, fiction, Haiti, Haitian fiction****

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