In five sections—Childhood, Migration, Half/First Generation, Return, and Future—the thirty-three contributors to this anthology write movingly, often hauntingly, of their lives in Haiti and the United States. Their dyaspora, much like a butterfly’s fluctuating path, is a shifting landscape in which there is much travel between two worlds, between their place of origin and their adopted land.
This compilation of essays and poetry brings together Haitian-Americans of different generations and backgrounds, linking the voices for whom English is a first language and others whose dreams will always be in French and Kreyòl. Community activists, scholars, visual artists and filmmakers join renowned journalists, poets, novelists and memoirists to produce a poignant portrayal of lives in transition.
Edwidge Danticat, in her powerful introduction, pays tribute to Jean Dominique, a sometime participant in the Haitian dyaspora and a recent martyr to Haiti’s troubled politics, and the many members of the dyaspora who refused to be silenced. Their stories confidently and passionately illustrate the joys and heartaches, hopes and aspirations of a relatively new group of immigrants belonging to two countries that have each at times maligned and embraced them.
From Publishers Weekly
The experience of Haitian immigrants in what novelist Danticat (Krik? Krak!; etc.) calls the "tenth" geographical "department" of HaitiA"the floating homeland, the ideological one, which joined all Haitians living in the dyaspora"Ais the theme of this collection of 33 spare and evocative essays and poems. Most of these writers fled political instability as children and describe the dual reality of alienation from yetbelonging to two worlds, forging an identity separate from that of their parents in the new country, while at the same time continuing to wait for stability in the old country. Nik?l Payen tells of her experience as a U.S. Justice Department-sponsored interpreter who uses her knowledge of Krey?l ("the language whose purpose in life up until now had been to pain and confuse me") as "an asset" to translate for refugees waiting in horrific conditions at Guantanamo Naval Base following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When she witnesses the return of some of these HaitiansAdenied entrance to the U.S.Ashe likens their journey to the African Middle Passage. In another, Marie-H?l?ne Laforest, whose lighter skin color and family's wealth made her "white" in Haiti, realizes that she is simply black in America and later forges a third identity in Italy. Francie Latour, a journalist, convinces her American newspaper to send her to Haiti with a noble aim, but ends up "hitting a cultural wall" and being viewed as a "traitor" by her native people. This rich collection of writings will appeal to the growing number of Haitian-Americans and others interested in the question of the ?migr?'s sense of identity. (Feb.)
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Diaspora kindles painful and conflicting emotions, and those living in exile from Haiti carry burdens both archetypal and unique to the legacy of their homeland, the first black republic in the Western Hemisphere. Danticat, the gifted Haitian American author of The Farming of Bones (1998), has assembled a potent and piercing collection of essays and poems that articulate the frustrations and sorrows of Haitians who are now outsiders both in Haiti and in their places of refuge. Her eloquent contributors express anger over the negative images conjured by what Joel Dreyfuss calls "the Phrase," the automatic tag line "the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere," and voice pride in Haiti's spirituality and art. Not that there isn't much to lament, as evident in searing essays by Jean-Robert Cadet, Barbara Sanon, and Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel. Haiti is a profoundly complex and alluring place, a neighbor, as Francie Latour observes, "whose history and future are so intertwined" with the U.S. that it must be better understood, and Danticat's revelatory anthology is a giant step in that direction. Donna Seaman
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“A volume that movingly describes the various facets of the Haitian migration experience . . . The Butterfly’s Way is the story of a people in transition, struggling to find a comfort zone between their land of origin and their land(s) of resettlement. It provides powerful images of the inner souls of displaced persons, living between two worlds and carrying a heavy baggage of things past.”
“An assembly of writings by writers of Haitian descent—the first of its kind . . . An astonishing, stirring addition not only to the heretofore thin canon of Haitian-American literature, but to American literature. Period.”
—Research in African Literatures
“Varied, colorful, and interesting . . . Whether [the writers] are discussing childhood memories, interracial relationships, or returning home, their comments are always illuminating.”