Many of us feel helpless in the face of catastrophes, especially one as devastating as the earthquake that hit Haiti Tuesday, January 12. We can make donations to humanitarian efforts, and we can channel our compassion by learning more about a place we perhaps know little about. Stories help us connect with the “common humanity” President Obama reminds us of, and, in the case of Haiti, affirm our profound connection with our neighbor.
Edwidge Danticat’s stories and novels of Haiti and the Haitian Diaspora are a must, from Krik? Krak! and The Farming of Bones to The Dew Breaker, as well as her profound musings on the beauty, strength, and sorrows of Haiti’s complex cultural brew in After the Dance: A Walk through Carnival in Haiti, and Brother, I’m Dying, in which Danticat shares more memories of her girlhood in Port-au-Prince, and tells harrowing tales of the tragedies that can befall Haitians in America.
For an in-depth and dramatic interpretation of Haiti’s epic battle for independence, no resource is more evocative then Madison Smartt Bell’s trilogy of historical novels about Toussaint Louverture: All Souls’ Rising, Master of the Crossroads, and The Stone that the Builder Refused. Bell has also written a biography of Toussaint Louverture.