I’ve read lots of books about Haiti. I recently finished Phillipe Girard’s Haiti (originally published in 2005, then updated and re-issued in 2010) and it is the best I’ve read.
Girard is a professor of Caribbean history at McNeese State University. His book is an excellent narrative history, telling the 500+ years of Haitian history in less than 250 pages, while covering all the necessary ground without a political agenda. I found it a refreshing and balanced treatment, avoiding the polemics of Paul Farmer’s Uses of Haiti, for example, but without the bitter pessimism of Timothy Schwartz’s The Travesty of Haiti. I don’t agree with everything Professor Girard has written, and there are some errors in the book, but for anyone looking for a easily manageable introduction to the sad and bizarre tale that is Haitian history, this book would be the best choice.
Changing the subject a little, last night I wore my Mercy and Sharing t-shirt to the restaurant. There are lots of folks here wearing t-shirts with rude sayings (such as “If you don’t like my attitude, you can go to hell”). Those don’t get a second look. But mine drew the attention of the Dominican staff, several of whom Cherie saw wander over to look at it. On the back it says “haitianchildren.org” and lists some of things Mercy and Sharing does, such as orphan care and abandoned babies unit. As Cherie saw it (I hadn’t noticed) the wait staff seemed displeased with the shirt. And it’s not easy to make a Dominican person unhappy. It hadn’t crossed my mind that the shirt might not be appropriate in the D.R. The ugly relationship between the people who share this island, and who are so different in so many ways, is just one more sad chapter in Haitian history. It is discussed in Professor Girard’s book, of course.
Tomorrow we’re off to Ouanaminthe. I probably won’t be able to blog until we return.