Yanatha Desouvre may be an educator during the day, yet he’s made his mark in the community through his literary works. Born in Port-au-Prince, but raised in Brooklyn and Philadelphia, the Haitian-American author has published a wide array of books that range from instructional guides, to children’s books. His latest novel, Revelations: Roads to Redemption, follows a rambunctious team of vigilante heroes that take us on an emotionally charged, action-packed journey to find a missing fiancé.
How does Haiti impact your work?
The ground that my bare baby feet first touched, the place of my birth, Haiti, doesn’t only impact my work: it’s embedded in everything that I do. The culture, the food, the language, the arts, the people. Like a famous rapper said, because I am Haitian, there is “Royalty in My DNA.” The richness of Haiti flows through me constantly.
Your latest book is inspired by Haitian proverbs. What’s your favorite Haitian proverb and why?Yes, each chapter in “Revelations: Roads to Redemption” starts with a timeless Haitian proverb. Haitian proverbs carry universal themes with an exquisite Haitian flavor. One Haitian proverb that stands out for me is “Jan ou vini, se jan yo resevwa ou.” [The way you come is the way people will welcome you.] It reminds of the phrase, “Come correct or don’t come at all.” And also: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” You can see, in those instances, how universal Haitian proverbs are. My book “Revelations: Roads to Redemption” was also inspired by a well-recognized Haitian musical artist, and my novel is a homage to his work – my way of bringing the band back together without David Chappelle.
Some of your books are published in Haitian Creole. Why is that? What’s the impact when books are published in a person’s native language, especially in former European colonies?It was very important to me to publish a Haitian Creole version of “Big Sister Little – Gran Sè, Ti Sè”. Every day, I remind my little ones that the Haitian blood running through their veins makes them descendants of warriors and of royalty. It is in their DNA to carve out their own path, to blaze trails. Our ancestors overthrew and battled these European superpowers; similarly, we, Haitians, have in us – that spirit of resilience, that inner strength—to deal with whatever adversity may come our way. “Big Sister, Little Sister” was also translated into French and Spanish, so that I could let my children know that we—they—can conquer anything. When “Big Sister, Little” Sister became a #1 Amazon bestseller in the “siblings” category, that was an exciting moment to celebrate. I believe that when I pass down my native tongue to my children (either in my literary works or in everyday interactions), it represents the bridge that brings me back home. Just like in “Proud to Be”, the book that followed “Big Brother”, my Creole wasn’t perfect. So, I worked with my father, a walking, living treasure, to confirm the Creole I used was on point.
While I’m hoping that “Revelations: Roads to Redemption” gets to number one like “Big Sister, Little Sister” did, I do have another project, The Daniel Coulanges story (World’s Finest Indiegogo Project) that is also dear to me.
On April 16, I turned 40 years old, and I’m beyond blessed to have lived that long. Unfortunately, my late uncle Daniel Coulanges was not so lucky. He was a classical guitar player once called “One of the World’s Finest Guitarist.” He died at 28 in 1989 of HIV/AIDS. The Indiegogo project aims at bringing to life his last recordings, and I kindly want The Haitian Times and the Haitian community worldwide to be a part of this endeavor. We have such a rich culture. Let’s us live us lives to the fullest and share our beautiful culture with the world.