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Latina Reads: 12 Haitian Women Authors To Make Room For On Your Bookshelves

Latina Reads: 12 Haitian Women Authors To Make Room For On Your Bookshelves

Haiti is a Caribbean country rich in revolution and Black freedom. Enslaved Africans achieved independence from France in 1804, after centuries of colonial rule. Haiti, which means “mountainous country” in the language of the Taínos who first inhabited the land, is the source of inspiration for the works of the women on this list — for its beauty, its resistance and its turmoil.

Here, brilliant Haitian women authors, on the island and in the diaspora, you should know and read.

1. Gina Athena Ulysse

(Photo Credit: Wesleyan University)

Gina Athena Ulysse is a multi-hyphenated powerhouse born in Pétion-Ville, Haïti who is currently Professor of anthropology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The feminist artist-anthropologist-activist has been published in several poetry collections and journals. She is best known for her 2015 book Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle.”

2. Marie Celie Agnant

 

Marie-Célie Agnant was born in born 1953 in Port-au-Prince and has lived in Quebec, Canada since 1970. Acclaimed for her multitude of works, including novels, poems and children’s books, Agnant is known for her great contributions to Haitian literature. “La Dot de Sara” was the 1995 finalist for the Desjardins literary prize, while “Le Silence comme le sang” was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award in 1997. Her books deal with themes like the social status of women, racism, exile and loneliness. She’s also known to make appearances on the stage with Vermont’s Bread & Puppet Theater.

3. Paulette Poujol Oriol

 

Paulette Poujol Oriol has been recognized as one of Haiti’s leading literary figures as well as one of the most prominent individuals in Haiti’s feminist movement. Her French-language novel “Le Creuset,” published in 1980, follows the lives of a Haitian family over more than a century and is considered by many to be the best of her works. The story presents issues of  race, prejudice, education and feminism within Haiti. She died of a heart attack in March of 2011 in Port-au-Prince.

4. Roxane Gay

 

Born in Omaha, Nebraska to a family of Haitian descent, Roxane Gay, 43, is a common fixture on the bestseller list and one of the most prominent feminist writers in the U.S. Her 2014 debut novel, “An Untamed State,” centers on Mireille Duval Jameson, a Haitian-American woman who is kidnapped for ransom and explores themes of race, privilege, sexual violence, family and the immigrant experience. Her 2014 essay collection “Bad Feminist” addresses feminist ideology and how it can sometimes be at odds with what modern women enjoy.: “In each of these essays, I’m very much trying to show how feminism influences my life for better or worse. It just shows what it’s like to move through the world as a woman. It’s not even about feminism per se, it’s about humanity and empathy,” she told TIME.  In May of 2018, she published “Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture,” featuring first-person essays on rape, assault and harassment.

5. Lenelle Moise

 

Lenelle Moise is an award-winning poet, actress and playwright born in Port-au-Prince and currently based in the United States. Her work centers on race, gender, class, immigration and sexuality and has been featured in several anthologies, including “Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution” and “We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches from the Next Generation of Feminists.” Her debut book “Haiti Glass” was released in 2014 and features verse and prose on growing up a Haitian immigrant in the suburbs of Boston.  She was the 2017 Lakes Writer-in-Residence at Smith College.

 

6. Évelyne Trouillot

 

Hailing from a famous literary family, Évelyne Trouillot’s contributions to the literary canon in Haiti are recognized as being some of the best works to come out of the country. Her most famous book is her debut novel “Rosalie l’infâme” (“The Infamous Rosalie”), which was  inspired by a colonial memoirist’s reports of an African midwife who had a cord with about 60 knots commemorating the children she spared from slavery by killing them at birth. The book was released in 2003 for which she received the Prix de la romancière francophone du Club Soroptimist de Grenoble, awarded to women who’ve written a French novel.

7. Kettly Mars

 

Kettly Mars was born in 1958 in Port-au-Prince, and her hometown has been an inspiration for many of her works. Mars’ first novel, “Kasalé,” is a portrait of a rural Haitian community set in Rivière-Froide, near Port-au-Prince, exploring rural family dynamics. Her most famous and powerful novel  “Saisons sauvages” recounts the kidnapping of a journalist named Daniel Leroy during the early years of François Duvalier’s dictatorship. Among other themes, “Savage Seasons” (translated in 2015)  is a reflection on dictatorship, gendered and sexual violence, and the uses of Vodou in Haiti during Duvalier’s reign .

8. Yanick Lahens

 

Yanick Lahens was born in Port-au-Prince in 1953 and educated in France, later returning to Haiti to teach literature at the university in her hometown. She went on to take a role in the Ministry for Culture, where she spearheaded the “Road to Slavery” project focused on addressing enslavement in Haiti.  Her latest, “Bain de lune,” chronicles the history of a family in rural Haiti over more than four generations. She received the French literary prize Prix Femina for the novel in 2014.

9. Myriam J.A. Chancy

 

 

Myriam J.A. Chancy is a Haitian-Canadian writer who was born in Port-au-Prince in 1970 and raised in Quebec City, Canada.  At 19, she signed her first book contract for a young adult novel, and in 2011 she was awarded the Guyana Prize in Literature Caribbean Award for Best Fiction for her third novel, “The Loneliness of Angels.” Her writing focuses on  Haitian culture, gender, class, sexuality and Caribbean women’s studies. She is currently a Professor of Africana Studies at the University of Cincinnati.

10. Michèle-Jessica Fièvre

 

Michèle-Jessica Fièvre, also known as  M.J.is a 37-year-old Haitian-born writer and educator who has lived in Florida since 2002. She self-published her first mystery novel “Le Feu de la vengeance” at 16, and at 19 she published her first young adult book, “La Statuette Maléfique.” She’s published a total of nine books in French. In 2015, she released her memoir (in English) titled “A Sky the Color of Chaos,” which centers on her tumultuous childhood during Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s reign in Haiti. The book contrasts Haiti’s rich culture and natural beauty with the terror in Port-au-Prince’s streets and the turmoil inside M.J.’s own home. M.J. is a writing coach and currently works as program coordinator at ReadCaribbean for the Miami Book Fair.

11. Edwidge Danticat

 

Haitian-American novelist and short story writer Edwidge Danticat, 49, has authored several acclaimed books, including “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” an Oprah Book Club selection. She received the 1999 American Book Award for “The Farming of Bones” about the love affair of a young Haitian woman while living in the Dominican Republic in the midst of the Parsley Massacre that left roughly 12,000-35,000 Haitians living in their neighboring country dead. Her memoir, “Brother, I’m Dying,” was a 2007 finalist for the National Book Award and a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography.

12. Ida Faubert

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Ida Faubert was the daughter of the former president of Haïti, Lysius Salomon. Born Gertrude Florentine Félicitée Ida in 1882 in Port-au-Prince, she went on to make a name for herself with her published works. She is renowned for “Coeur des Îles,” “Histoires d’Haïti et d’ailleurs”and Œuvres.” In 1959, Faubert published a collection of stories, “Sous le soleil caraïbe,” which portrayed the daily life of Haiti. She lived in Paris until her death in 1969.

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