July 4, 2009

Take Me Away to Haiti

Take Me Away

As a lover of books that take place in different cultures and are about different cultures, Take Me Away is a way to share this love with you, my readers and friends!

Each week I feature a different country or culture (ex. Cherokee, Jewish, etc. that do not have a specific country per se) and list some books that can transport you there.

I am keeping a map of the countries we visit and a list of the specific cultures, which you can see at the bottom of this post. Here is a list of where we've been so far:

This week we are visiting the country of Haiti. Click on the titles of the books to go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.com to read reviews and/or purchase the book.

Here is an easy to see map of Haiti, which shares an island with the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea:
To learn more about Haiti, click here.

Land of Mountains by Elizabeth Maul Schwartz
Coming of age can be trying for anyone, but for Texan Lizbuthann and her sidekick Doux Doux Boudreaux, it proves downright mysterious. Plagued by disease, political unrest and a really pesky zombie, the girls somehow manage to not only survive, but thrive, in a land where voodoo reigns. With humor and a real sense for adventure, Elizabeth Schwartz, who was raised in Haiti, transports the reader to another time, when little girls and rivers ran wild and free. Genre: Young Adult Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.

The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
Whirling with witchcraft and sensuality, this latest novel by Hopkinson is a globe-spanning, time-traveling spiritual odyssey. When three Caribbean slave women, led by dignified doctress Mer, assemble to bury a stillborn baby on the island of Saint Domingue (just before it is renamed Haiti in 1804), Ezili, the Afro-Caribbean goddess of love and sex, is called up by their prayers and lamentations. Drawing from the deceased infant's "unused vitality," Ezili inhabits the bodies of a number of women who, despite their remoteness from each other in time and space, are bound to each other by salt-be it the salt of tears or the salt that baptized slaves into an alien religion. The goddess's most frequent vehicle is Jeanne Duval, a 19th-century mulatto French entertainer who has a long-running affair with bohemian poet Charles Baudelaire. There is also fourth-century Nubian prostitute Meritet, who leaves a house of ill repute to follow a horde of sailors, but finds religion and a call to sainthood. Meanwhile, the seed of revolution is planted in Saint Domingue as the slaves hatch a plan to bring down their white masters. Ezili yearns to break free from Jeanne's body to act elsewhere, but can do so only when Jeanne, now infected with syphilis, is deep in dreams. Fearing that she will disappear when death finally calls Jeanne, Ezili is drawn into the body of Mer at a cataclysmic moment and is just as quickly tossed back into other narratives. Though occasionally overwrought, the novel has a genuine vitality and generosity. Epic and frenetic, it traces the physical and spiritual ties that bind its characters to each other and to the earth. Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novel Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti by Edwidge Danticat
Twenty years after emigrating to America, Danticat returns to her native Haiti and the coastal village of Jacmel to take part in her first Carnival. But she's not without reservations. As a child she was forbidden to partake in the festivities by her uncle, a Baptist minister with whom she lived before joining her parents in New York at age 12. "People always hurt themselves during carnival, he said, and it was their fault, for gyrating with so much abandon that they would dislocate their hips and shoulders and lose their voices while singing too loudly." Organized in sections that parallel Danticat's perambulations in the week leading up to the event, the author illuminates the political, economic and cultural history of the island nation, introducing Columbus, French colonists and Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, the dictator of Danticat's youth. Throughout, readers meet local artists, farmers and activists who call Jacmel home, including Ovid, a farmer whom Danticat meets having lost her way in an abandoned sugar plantation. Madame Ovid, his wife, crafts paper cones to hold the grilled corn flour she will sell during carnival. It's said that the act of writing leads to a deeper understanding of one's subject, and oneself. As the work reveals in its final pages, for no one is this more true than Danticat, who offers an enlightening look at the country and Carnival through the eyes of one of its finest writers. Genre: Travelogue Publisher: Crown

Breath, Eyes, Memory: A Novel by Edwidge Danticat
At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become one of our most celebrated new novelists, a writer who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti--and the enduring strength of Haiti's women--with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people's suffering and courage. At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti--to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people. Genre: Fiction Publisher: Vintage

A Taste of Haiti by Mirta Yurnet-Thomas
With African, French, Arabic and Amerindian influences, the food and culture of Haiti are fascinating subjects to explore. From the days of slavery to present times, traditional Haitian cuisine has relied upon staples like root vegetables, pork, fish, and flavor enhancers like Pikliz (picklese, or hot pepper vinegar) and Zepis (ground spices). This cookbook offers over 100 traditional Haitian recipes, including traditional holiday foods and the author's favorite drinks and desserts. Information on Haiti's history, holidays and celebrations, necessary food staples, and cooking methods will guide the home chef on a culinary adventure to this beautiful island. Recipe titles are given in English, Creole, and French. Genre: Cookbooks Publisher: Hippocrene Books

Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Metraux
A master work of observation and description about the lives and rituals of the Haitian mambos and adepts, and of the history and origins of their religion. Genre: Religion & Spirituality, Social Sciences: Customs & Traditions Publisher: Pantheon

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you know of some books that take place in Haii that you want to share? Or do you want to share other thoughts? Please leave a note in the comments! And be sure to check back next week for a trip in books to Japan, one of my favorites!

The Take Me Away Map of Countries Visited:

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide


  1. My husband is obsessed with Haiti and has actually read After the Dance, plus some other books about Haiti. I sent him a link.

  2. Cool, Amanda! I hope he finds some more to read. And I hope he shares some other ones that he read and liked!

  3. Yay, Haiti! This is really one country that fascinates me. The Schwartz and Hopkins books look awesome and I am definitely going to read them.


  4. I have After The Dance and I am looking forward to reading it. Voodoo in Haiti really interests me as I have enjoyed reading about Voodoo.

  5. I don't think I've read anything by a Haitian before. I did know someone from Haiti. And Edwidge Danticat is on my wishlist. :D

  6. I love this feature and while I do not comment every week - I will be coming back to visit each of the countries that we have been visiting.

    Edwidge Danticat is one of my favorite authors. I have enjoyed all of her work.

    My fav books is "The Farming of Bones"

  7. One book I forgot to mention is Island of Fire, which is a great catalog of Haitian Art and has some wonderful essays about the history and art of Haiti. Unfortunately, it's OOP and pretty expensive.

  8. Oh this is great. I don't think I've read a single book set in Haiti. I'm trying to think and can't come up with anything. So I'm going to have to take note of some of these books :)

  9. I loved The Salt Roads! And Voodoo in Haiti is on my wishlist. Another great one about voodoo and other traditions is Tell My Horse by Zora Neale Hurston - a great mix of folklore and travelogue.

  10. I recently won a copy of Breath, Eyes, Memory from Color Online. I'm looking forward to reading it as it's the first story I will read that's set in Haiti. And my first Dandicat, who I hear has gotten better with time.

  11. I just finished listening to Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying. It was awesome.

  12. I am a huge Danticat fan. Breath is an early work and only hints at her talent. The Farming of Bones is beautifully haunting and lush. I've reread it and I am not a rereader.

    I desperately want Brother, I'm Dying.

  13. heidenkind- Thanks! I wonder if I can find Island of Fire at my library?

    scrap girl-Voodoo really interests me, too.

    claire- Danticat is on my wish list, too. So many titles to choose from.

    beverly- Thank you for letting me know that while you may not be commenting, you are enjoying the feature! That kind of encouragement helps me to keep making it a great weekly feature.

    iliana- I hope you find one that you like reading!

    nymeth- Thanks for the recommendation! I have the Salt Roads, I just need a chance to read it!

    sandra- Dandicat is definitely a Haitian author to check out.

    softdrink- I have heard really good things about her latest.

    color online- You are the second one here to recommend The Farming of Bones. I will have to see if I can get my hands on that one next!


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