In the shadow of the devastation, homelessness and disease that remain in Haiti after January’s devastating earthquake, there is beauty and art.
Haitian writers offer stories of their country, some of which will highlight the Miami Book Fair International from Nov. 14 to 21. More than 300 writers from throughout the world will attend and former President George W. Bush will launch the fair with his new book, “Decision Points.”
“They are going to discuss Haiti as an inspiration for people to write their work, but more so since the earthquake,” said book fair director Alina Interian of the Haiti panel. “What does that mean for the folks that are still there who are coping with life as it is day in and day out?”
Something surprising has arisen from the rubble, they say. People who have never written before are now writing down the stories of life in Haiti, sometimes for therapy. They are also writing because they want to put it to paper now, before it’s too late and they never do it.
“Probably after an event like this, it must seem like fiction doesn’t match the reality,” said Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American author who was given a genius grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The National Book Award nominee has won other literary prizes — including the Pushcart Short Story Prize and the American Book Award — for her depiction of Haitian migrants.
Danticat will discuss the book “Haiti Noir,” featuring 18 Haitian authors and edited by her, at the fair, as well as her book, “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.” ”Haiti Noir” comes out in January.
“The current story is harder to tell. It’s not as dramatic as pulling people from rubble,” Danticat said.
She says she is inspired by people who are not waiting for the billions of dollars in aid to come, but those who were helping before the earthquake. “I think those are the people who will rebuild Haiti,” she said.
Interian feels that the adversity may have inspired creativity.
“In an odd way it has brought about some good writing,” Interian said.
Before the quake, many writers self-published because it was a sure way to get work out, but at about $7,000 per 1,000 copies, it was also very expensive. The irony is that people who have compelling stories to tell never have the opportunity to get the stories to the masses, said South Florida-based Haitian-American author M.J. Fievre, who was raised in Haiti in a middle-class family.
Fievre — whose short story “The Rainbow’s End” is part of “Haiti Noir” — says many books, some self-published, about the earthquake and its aftermath are being published in Haiti.
“We are not in the spotlight anymore. People don’t really care anymore,” said Fievre, who imagines that the first wave of writing will be nonfiction, but eventually Haitian writers will go back to their roots.
“They have a very close relationship to fiction. Very soon, once all the real stories have been told … people are going to go back to fiction,” she said.
But Danticat feels that writing and art can touch the heart more than the news.
“You get more nuance,” she said. “It takes away the voyeur element to it.”
Kent Annan, co-director of Haiti Partners, a nonprofit working in Haiti, wrote a memoir “Aftershock,” a book about searching for faith after the quake. It will be published in January as well.
This year’s fair will celebrate Mexico as the featured country, offering food, theater, music and dance events.
Expected authors include Jonathan Franzen, Salman Rushdie, Michael Cunningham and Gay Talese.
CBS4 is a proud sponsor of the Miami Book Fair.