Monday, February 7, 2011

Haiti Noir Anthology Edited by Edwidge Danticat

Haiti churns out bad news daily whether it is a cholera epidemic, a returning dictator or two or the aftermath of the earthquake of 2010.  Visitors to the island nation know there is beauty, culture and miraculous people.  The armchair traveler has a plethora of news books out this year written by Haitian authors to choose from.  The best way to jump in feet first is with Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat.  

Authors and publishers are taking up the mantle of doing well by doing good.  Rebecca Skloot and her foundation for the Lacks family benefitting from book sales is a superb example.  In Haiti Noir a publisher’s note informs readers that, “a portion of the profits will be donated to the Lambi Fund of Haiti, a nonprofit organization working toward economic democracy, and alternative sustainable development in Haiti.”  As if one needs a reason beyond outstanding fiction writing to indulge in this superb anthology.

"Even before the earthquake, life was not easy in Haiti.  There was always the risk of dying from hunger, an infectious disease, a natural disaster, or a crime.  But there was also hope, laughter and boundless creativity," writes Danticat.

A series of readings and appearances is scheduled now through May 13, 2011, for details please visit the publisher’s website.  Authors included in the Haiti Noir anthology will accompany Ms. Danticat  to locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Baltimore, MD.  

Each story is fresh and heart wrenching whether for the lost people, lost beauty or lost time.  Danticat has orchestrated an outstanding selection of voices that reach into every nook and cranny of life in Haiti.

18 new stories, including one by Danticat and two by non-Haitians, Madison Smartt Bell and Mark Kurlansky, bring the sounds, aromas, colors, and landscape of Haiti to life.  The Rainbow's End by M.J. Fievre is a father-daughter story that transcends the island's borders to resonate with fathers and daughters everywhere.  The story is Haiti-specific in the rhythm and syncopation of the words including the oft-repeated "Because Ben Knows Where I live."

Gary Victor's The Finger shocks and surprises in a creepy crawly way but leaves readers Googling him and the 17 other authors craving more work to read by these sensational voices.  Paradise Inn by Kettly Mars pays homage to the magical realism of Isabel Allende.  Mars has a superb voice and her lyricism gallops without stumbling from word one. 

Izzy Goldstein is the protagonist in Mark Kurlansky's The Leopard of Ti Morne and possesses a unique and funny voice and spirit.  Kurlansky puts the reader smack dab in the middle of Goldstein's Miami Beach apartment with his lush and intimate description.

In an email conversation with Madison Smartt Bell about his story, Twenty Dollars, Bell said.  I started going to Haiti in 1995, once or twice a year, to research my books and then because I got to love it.”

This is not the first time Bell has written about Haiti and when asked about his fascination with the island the author sums it up with a declaration by his character and alter ego in Twenty Dollars, Charlie Chapo.  “Haiti is a place where magical thinking actually works.”

Born in Haiti in 1969, Edwidge Danticat moved to the United States at the age of twelve.  Create Dangerously, Danticat’s new memoir just out from Princeton University Press, is a collection of essays exploring the responsibility of immigrant artists “to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy.”

Danticat is the author of Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection, Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist.  Brother, I'm Dying, her memoir, was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award.  In 2009 Danticat was awarded the prestigious grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  She lives in the Little Haiti district of Miami with her husband and daughter.

Akashic Books launched the Noir Series in 2004 with its award-winning best seller Brooklyn Noir.  The anthologies include all new stories, each set within a distinct neighborhood or location within the title city.  Haiti Noir is the 36th book in this series.

Haiti Noir
Edited by Edwidge Danticat
Akashic Books
Hardcover ISBN# 9781617750137
Trade Paperback ISBN# 9781936070657
Cover Photo: Steve Lindridge/
Cover Design: Jon Resh/Undaunted

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