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Wilentz traces the country's history from its slave plantations through its turbulent revolutionary history, its kick-up-the-dirt guerrilla movements, its totalitarian dynasty that ruled for decades, and its long and always troubled relationship with the United States. Yet through a history of hardship shines Haiti's creative culture--its African traditions, its French inheritance, and its uncanny resilience, a strength that is often confused with resignation.
Haiti emerged from the dust of the 2010 earthquake like a powerful spirit, and this stunning book describes the country's day-to-day struggle and its relationship to outsiders who come to help out. There are human-rights reporters gone awry, movie stars turned aid workers, priests and musicians running for president, doctors turned diplomats. A former U.S. president works as a house builder and voodoo priests try to control elections.
A foreign correspondent on a simple story becomes, over time and in the pages of this book, a lover of Haiti, pursuing the essence of this beautiful and confounding land into its darkest and brightest corners. "Farewell, Fred Voodoo "is a spiritual journey into the heart of the human soul, and Haiti has found in Amy Wilentz an author of astonishing wit, sympathy, and eloquence.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-10-22
- Reviewer: Staff
In this bracing memoir, Wilentz (The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier) revisits Haiti, as she describes a complex nation, following the cataclysmic 2010 earthquake. The world’s first black republic is neither French nor completely Caribbean nor a protectorate of the United States, but rather, Wilentz writes, something akin to French West Africa. Readers get a stimulating immersion course in Haiti’s culture, history, and political machinations. She introduces a fantastical cast of characters who inhabit the many layers of Haitian society and those individuals who flocked to the island following the earthquake, burdened with motives ranging from the base self-promotion or redemption of sundry celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Charlie Sheen to those who came to help such as Doctor Coffee, whom Wilentz calls “an all-purpose medical phenomenon.” Though many pontificate on the country’s unrelenting despair, poverty, and corruption, Wilentz’s remarkable narrative strives to alter these perceptions. She writes, “But in fact, this depression and hopelessness come from experts who don’t understand Haiti, don’t acknowledge its strengths (and don’t know them), don’t get its culture or are philosophically opposed to what they assume its culture is, and don’t know its history in any meaningful way.” An unsentimental yet heartfelt journey to a country possessing the power to baffle some, yet beguile others. (Jan.)