As someone who has read several books about Haiti--from Aristide's In the Parish of the Poor, to Danticat's short stories and essay, to classics like Roumain's Masters of the Dew--I was shocked when I came across this collection edited by Edwidge Danticat herself.
Like much of the literature about Haiti, these stories can serve both as entertainment and as "historical fiction," presenting us with fictional stories set in very real worlds--both Haiti and nations like the US containing members of the Diaspora. You can read them for enjoyment, as a fan of noir literature or a fan of Haitian or black literature, or you can read them and go beyond the pages, learning about the complex country of Haiti they present. But what's unique about these stories is their subject matter.
On some levels, it could be seen as a strange move to put together this collection-- to show Haiti's darkside, a Haiti that is already seen as poor, or underdeveloped, or destitute, by much of the "first world"-- which could serve for some just to further these stereotypes about Haiti. However, what is brilliant about this collection, is that it uses these dark themes to also show the complexities of Haiti caused by this apparent poverty. In one story we see a man struggling to raise or give away his daughter each year on her birthday ("Claire of the Sealight"), in another we see two mothers hoping to give their daughters a better life in the US ("Which One?"), and in a third we see a sister angry and vengeful at the death of her mother who had been stuck int he US ("The Last Department"), to name a few of the stories. In each story of the collection, though, it is through these crimes--these struggles for power, struggles for survival--that we realize that, yes, there are problems in Haiti, but behind those problems are actual people (even if they're fictional in these stories), struggling to survive each day in the aftermath of abuse from industralized countries like the US and France, brutal dicatorships, and natural disasters. By giving crime and poverty and corruption a face in each of the stories in this collection, the authors show the world the complexity of Haiti, all while entertaining readers.
A fan of Haiti, but also a student of literature, I will not argue that these stories are flawless, or that they are all "classics"; I will, however, argue what I just did, that this collection (and collections like it from all over the world) are necessary to educate and enlighten the world to the situation in countries like Haiti.
Or, if you'd rather, they are entertaining, darkly twisted tales about power, crime, and revenge.
- Hardcover: 300 pages
- Publisher: Akashic Books (7 December 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1617750131
- ISBN-13: 978-1617750137
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.2 x 21.6 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 386 g
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