Our favorite books about Haiti

Masters of the Dew. Jacques Roumain.
Masters of the Dew. Jacques Roumain.

In honor of the fourth annual Haitian-Caribbean Book Fair, which runs Saturday and Sunday in Little Haiti, we’ve askedwriters (and a filmmaker) for recommendations of their favorite works about the country.

Edwidge Danticat, author of Brother, I’m Dying and Claire of the Sea Light: “I would recommend Marie Vieux Chauvet’s seminal novel Love, Anger, Madness. It’s actually three novels in one. Set during the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti, it shows the very difficult choices people must make in order to survive under impossible circumstances. I would also recommend Jacques Stephen Alexis’ two translated novels General Sun, My Brother, which deals with the massacre of Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic in 1937 and In The Flicker of an Eyelid, set during the time of the U.S. occupation of Haiti, between 1915 and 1934. They’re both beautiful and powerful books.”

Fabienne Josaphat, author of Dancing in the Baron’s Shadow: “I offer my non-Haitian friends the novel Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain all the time (it is translated into English by Langston Hughes and Mercer Cook). It is a story about the peasant class in Haiti, but it is one of the most powerful works about Haiti, and it speaks volume on the farming class and its customs, beliefs, work ethic and struggles. It’s about a young man returning home from a long trip working as a sugar cane cutter. He finds his village devastated by drought and goes on a quest to find water before they all die. It’s really a story about community, and about hope.”

Marie Theodore-Pharel, author of Songs from a Tower and Beauty Walks in Nature: “I love every book Edwidge Danticat has ever written. However, my favorite is Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. That’s the book I started reading the night it came in the mail, and I had to call in sick the next day because I had to finish it and through tears, I reread it.”

M.J. Fievre, author of A Sky the Color of Chaos: Poet Danielle Legros-Georges’ Maroon. I read it many years ago, but I still remember the cadence of some of the pieces. Some of the poems are about exile, and they touched me because I’d just moved away from home. The experience of being an expat is a lonely one until you realize that others share the same mix of exhilaration and homesickness. And Marilène Phipps-Kettlewell’s The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti. Her prose is so detailed and specific that you’re not sure whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. I love short stories and poems about Haiti because the “lodyans” (short tales) are such a crucial part of our strong oral literature that short forms seem to better capture/convey our storytelling tradition.

Documentary filmmaker Rachelle Salnave (La Belle Vie: The Good Life): “It might be a cliché, but Edwidge Danticat — her books are extraordinary. Brother I’m Dying is fantastic. It really pinpoints the struggle between the people in Haiti and the people in the States. . . . It’s such an amazing case study of the relationships in the diaspora.”

If You Go

What: The fourth annual Haitian-Caribbean Book Fair, presented by Sosyete Koukouy of Miami and Miami Book Fair.

Saturday: 7-10 p.m. Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace. Presentations from Father William Smarth (“The History of the Haitian Catholic Church in Haiti from 1492 to 2013”) and Professor Anthony Georges-Pierre, author of 15 biographies of Haitian presidents. There will also be performances by singer Kiki Wainwright and the Haitian Kreyol choir.

Sunday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Little Haiti Cultural Center. Family-friendly activities with authors, vendors, dance workshops, street entertainers and a children’s corner with singing, dancing and storytelling.

Cost: Free