Haiti isn’t exactly the place I’d recommend for a book club trip, but it’s certainly a place about which book clubs are interested in reading. My friend Patty, a fellow book clubber, is off to Haiti on a service trip to assist in a Haitian orphanage next month. She’s among hundreds of Americans who travel to Haiti to work in a multitude of ways to improve conditions there. Of course, literature is one way to understand the complex history, politics and culture of Haiti for those who go there and for those who simply wish to understand more about the seemingly unending problems of this country that is only 600 miles from the coast of Florida.
I, too, was in Haiti (thankfully before the earthquake) and found Edwidge Danticat’s After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti books fascinating to read while I was visiting there, particularly around Jacmel. Also check out Danticat’s beautiful writing about the Haitian experience in Breath, Eyes, Memory and Krik? Krak!
In addition, our book club read All Souls Rising by Madison Smartt Bell, which is a somewhat horrific, but excellent novel of the Haitian slave rebellion and was a National Book Award finalist. It’s part of Bell’s trilogy of novels about the Haitian revolution of 1791–1803, that includes All Soul’s Rising, Master of the Crossroads and The Stone That the Builder Refused. Bell also wrote a biography of the central figure of the rebellion, François Dominique Toussaint Louverture.
Our book club also read Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World about less than redressing the inequalities of medical service to the desperately poor. Also recommended: Paul Farmer’s book, The Uses of Haiti.