Books

Steeped in Tradition: Best Books to Understand Haiti’s Past and Present

Teleco, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

As the first independent Caribbean state – and the only nation established on the back of a successful slave revolt – Haiti holds a particular and special place in world history. Unfortunately, freedom came at a steep price. The island nation was forced to pay reparations to France, a debt which left their economy largely crippled and led to a spiraling of despotic regimes and military juntas. As a result, Haitian history is one defined by turmoil and upheaval.

In recent years, Haiti has been devastated by a rolling series of natural disasters – from a brutal 2010 earthquake to the recent destruction of Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. The results on the already impoverished nation have been catastrophic. Amidst, and perhaps in spite of, the country’s tumultuous past and volatile present, a vibrant Haitian culture has long flourished. Haiti is home to a people tempered by tragedy and steeped in tradition. Its literary culture is built on an eclectic mix of African and European-tinged mythology, and folklore presented through the lens of Haitian Vodou (commonly known as voodoo). The result is a powerful and engaging literary tapestry. The books below – many by Haitian authors – provide an opening view into the fascinating world of Haitian literature.