The other day, I came across a post on social media. Nathalie Lubin, a mother and aspiring author, had asked the public, “Do you know of any Haitian children’s books actually written by a Haitian?” She was building a library for her four-year-old son. By the next morning, she received messages from near and far, including my friend, who had tagged me in the post. She said, “I didn’t read any Haitian children’s book growing up. My books were all French and German fairy tales. I’ve been robbed of my culture.”
Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, a veteran Civil Rights activist, once said, “We are responsible for writing our own stories, our own history.” The onus falls on us to accurately record our history and write our stories. When Ms. Lubin posed the question, a few renowned authors were named. We are thankful for them for carving out a place in the world of literature and creating a path for us to follow.
Oral traditions are still relevant but due to the advances in the printing and technological industries, many people now have the ability to share their stories in a split second. There is no longer a barrier to the publishing industry. If a person wants to write a book, she can present her words to the world in a less than a week.
There’s a Haitian proverb, “Nou La”; and, it translates to “We are here.” Although they are not in the mainstream, the “unknown authors” are here – they are everywhere. They may be sitting next you on the train ride, or standing on the line at the supermarket. We don’t scream and demand the world to recognize us. But, if there’s a call, we show up and/or support.
One just has to look closely, or ask the right person. Oftentimes, internet searches do not yield any results, but these authors are on the ground, telling the stories and inspiring the next generation to boldly and proudly claim their Haitian heritage.
If you are interested in building your children’s library filled with books written by Haitians or those of Haitian descent, below is a list. It’s not an exhaustive list. It’s transient, as new authors will rise up tomorrow and announce “Nou La” through their advocacy via book readings in the community and beyond.
1. “I Dream Too / Mwen Reve” by Maude Heurtelou
2. “Anaëlle ak Lasirèn” by Riva Précil
3. “Haiti: The First Black Republic” by Frantz Derenoncourt, Jr.
4. “Fabiola Konn Konte” by Katia D. Ulysse
5. “The Legend of Quisqueya” by Margaret Papillon
6. “Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation” by Edwidge Danticat and Leslie Staub
7. “Where Is Lola?” by Maureen Boyer
8. “Mommy, Tell Me About Haiti” by Jeanine Agnant
9. “A is for Ayiti” by Ibi Zoboi
10. “Mmmmm! Soup Joumou!“ by Carline Smothers
11. “Haiti Is” by Cindy Similien-Johnson
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