Back Matter

Poor Haiti

Wherein Our Man in Boston assembles a short list of reading on benighted Haiti.

Book Cover The outpouring of concern and aid for the victims of benighted Haiti’s most recent disaster is, I suppose, some measure of comfort for the victims who inhabit one of the poorest geographies on this planet.

And it’s better than the rabid utterances of that heinous Christian clergyman Pat Robertson, who proclaimed that Haiti is paying for an ancient pact made with the devil. But if disaster history shows anything it is that tragedy strikes, people respond and return to their comfortable lives, and the afflicted carry on.

Haiti has a long history of suffering, not the least that was inflicted by its U.S.-supported dictator, self-appointed President for Life Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his heir, Jean-Claude Baby Doc—a dynasty that was finally deposed in 1986. The end of the Duvaliers did not mean the end of miseries for the Haitian people; the AIDS epidemic and further U.S. interference in Haiti’s politics added instability to an already fragile society. If your concerns and/or curiosity persist beyond this current catastrophe, here is my mildly annotated basic bibliography on Haiti:

All Souls’ Rising; Master of the Crossroads; The Stone that The Builder Refused (Haitian Revolutionary trilogy)
Martin Smartt Bell’s astute and sympathetic portrait of rebellion leader Toussaint L’ouverture.

Breath, Eyes, Memory; Krik? Krak!; The Farming of Bones
Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat is a talented and compassionate storyteller, and her recent novel-in-stories The Dew Breaker, and award-winning memoir Brother, I’m Dying, articulate both obvious and subtle aspects of Haitian culture.

The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo; Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie
Ethnobotanist and anthropologist Wade Davis focused on some of the more exotic elements of Haitian life.

Haiti: Best Nightmare on Earth
A memoir of Haiti by perennial visitor Herbert Gold. “In fact,” he tells us, “Haiti was not bad to me, Haiti was mostly bad to Haitians.”

The Comedians
Graham Greene’s 1966 novel set in Haiti under the rule of Papa Doc and his dreaded secret police, the Tonton Macoute.

Mountains Beyond Mountains
Tracy Kidder’s story traces the life of physician, anthropologist, and Partners in Health founder Paul Farmer, who set up a medical clinic in Haiti.

The Immaculate Invasion
Writer Bob Shaccocis’s account of the 1994 U.S. invasion/intervention in support of the restoration of democracy in the person of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Photograph of Edwidge Danticat by the author
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