At the recent Miami Book Fair International, there was a panel discussion featuring Haitian authors about their anthology, So Spoke the Earth.
The panel included seven of the 41 authors who submitted writings for the book. Of the seven women--that included Joanne Hyppolite, Edwidge Danticat, Chantalle Francesca Verna, and M.J. Fievre--Liliane Nerette-Louis, Mahalia Solages, and Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel shared their candid perspectives and provided insight on the significance of their anthology.
For South Florida's Haitians and Haitian-Americans--specifically, the youth--the book serves as an introduction to the Haiti that the media often doesn't portray or discuss.
Nerette-Louis explained So Spoke the Earth's importance lies in the fact that it's "an international literary voice." "It is a collective work that touches every aspect of our land. [Within] the diaspora it became a duty for us, "femme d'Haiti" to communicate our hope, our love, our strength and every aspect of our culture," she explained.
The diaspora she's referring to includes the millions of Haitians who live abroad, and people with Haitian lineage who've never set foot in Haiti. With Haitian enclaves littered throughout South Florida, it’s estimated that number includes over 255,000 Haitians and Haitian-Americans.
Kenasha Paul, a Juris Doctorate Candidate for 2015 at Nova Southeastern Law School, shared her opinion that mirrors Nerette-Louis’ comment. “I feel authors as a whole have a responsibility to the people when writing to not just tell a story but educate in the process,” she said. “Haitian authors can’t tell a story about Haitians or meant for Haitians without including our culture; it’s like our genetic make-up. And it’s more than just being from an island in the West Indies. It’s in our identity, the food we eat, music, the differences in how we raise our children, and care for our neighbors. It would be an egregious error on authors to not communicate and effectively communicate Haitian culture,” explained.
Initially, the book was drafted after a call for literary submissions from female writers was sent throughout the Haitian literary community by Women Writers of Haitian Descent, Inc.
The book eventually became homage to a multilingual Haiti, where the present, past, and future are explored by both natives and non-natives presented in English, Creole, and French. The 384 pages tomb is divided into three themes: death was lurking, danger came rushing in, and the truth shall make you mad.
It addresses the socio-economic issues facing Haiti, the resiliency of Haitians and Haitian-Americans, and the role cultural sharing plays in coping through tragedy.
Because Haiti like any other country includes people with differing lifestyles, cultural, and religious beliefs, the authors explained it's crucial for all elements to be displayed. "Haiti is a country where differences in lifestyle, dialect and foods exist depending on where you are from within the island," said Solages. "So someone over sixty from a rural part of Haiti will bring memories that are entirely different from a twenty year old who grew up in Port-au-Prince. Someone's perception of Haiti has a lot to do with where they were on the island, why they were there, at what age where they there and if they ever lived there."
Her fellow writer expressed similar feelings in portraying a positive image of Haiti. "I want the generation to come to realize how vulnerable Haiti can be in so many aspects but by the same token I want them to see our strength and our coping mechanism," said Nerette-Louis. "I am a storyteller and a writer who left Haiti nearly a half century ago. I am proud to have contributed to this anthology by passing on true stories that witnessed the restraints placed on women in our past generation as well as their strength."