Masters of the Dew
"An Aroma of Coffee," "Masters of the Dew" and "Aunt Résia and the Spirits and Other Stories" book covers.

By Rachel Cassagnol | rachel@haitiantimes.com

From the riches of Haitian literature, we have compiled twelve Haitian novels worth adding to your spring/summer reading collection this year. The authors present life in Haiti through the decades, using their signature style to explore matters of class, race and belief systems in our society. Read on to see which ones belong on your shelf or e-reader.

Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain (1944)

When Manuel returns home from Cuba to his parents is to find his community in a drought. He wants to change the situation. Despite old feuds and resistance to change, he is determined to improve the lives of people in the village.

General Sun, My Brother by Jacques Stephen Alexis (1955)

In this debut work, Alexis shares the poignant tale of a worker caught up in the ‘’Dominican Vesper,” the 1937 massacre of Haitian workers by the Dominican Republic Army. The book traces his journey from Haiti, which he leaves after losing everything, to work as a sugarcane worker and being caught up in the massacre.

Dance on the Volcano by Marie Vieux-Chauvet (1957)

Set during the Haitian Revolution period, this novel examines race, class, love and loss experienced by two sisters, one of whom enters a society generally inaccessible to persons of color.  

Dézafi by Frankétienne (1975)

From the publisher: Dézafi tells the tale of a plantation run and worked by zombies for the financial benefit of the living owner. The owner’s daughter falls in love with a zombie and facilitates his transformation back into fully human form, leading to a rebellion that challenges the oppressive imbalance that had robbed the workers of their spirit. The walking dead and bloody cockfights (the “dézafi” of the title) serve as cultural metaphors for Haitian existence.

American Odyssey: Haitians in New York City by Michel Laguerre (1984)

Published in 1984, the author portrays the assimilation and adaptation of Haitians into American life in human, social and economic terms. A very informative book!

Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre (1988)

From the publisher: Set against a backdrop of magic and eroticism, and recounted with delirious humor, the novel raises universal questions about race and sexuality. The reader comes away enchanted by the marvelous reality of Haiti’s Vodou culture and convinced of Depestre’s lusty claim that all beings―even the undead―have a right to happiness and true love.

An Aroma of Coffee by Dany Laferrière (1993)

Life in the provincial village of Petit-Goâve is far from ordinary as it unfolds in the eyes of a young boy whose grandmother’s veranda is the center of the village. 

Aunt Résia and the Spirits and Other Stories by Yanick Lahens (1994)

The author describes a day-to-day life with men and women trying to survive under a dictatorship, a young man navigating life post-regime change between a mother with self-imposed restrictions and aunt with strong Vodou beliefs.

Tonight, by Sea by Frances Temple  (1997)

In search of a better life, Paulie and her family leave Haiti―the only home that Paulie has ever known. Paulie wants to stay and fight―to change Haiti into a better place to live. She wants to talk to the reporters and bravely tell the truth. But the macoutes come with their guns and knives to stop them. And they do something so terrible that Paulie must face the truth: before the soldiers come back, they must all leave tonight, by sea.

The Loneliness of Angels by Myriam J. A. Chancy  (2010)

The author emphasizes how spirituality is important in Caribbean life throughout multiple backgrounds and life experiences. Whether from a middle-class life of Port-au-Prince, working-class French Canada, expatriate Paris, the quest for spirituality is a connection shared by us all.

Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, me & the world by Gina Athena Ulysse (2017)

From the publisher, This is a lyrically vivid meditative journey that is unapologetic in its determination to name, embrace and reclaim a revolutionary Blackness that has been historically stigmatized and denied. 

Unseen Worlds: Adventures at the Crossroads of Vodou Spirits and Latter-day Saints by Marilène Phipps  (2018)

From the publisher: In this powerful memoir, we enter the lives of a family who are both descendants of European aristocrats and African slaves. We meet Phipps’s godfather, the rebel leader Gusl Villedrouin, and we relive her experiences with Vodou priests and spirits, a cold-eyed pope, a charismatic Muslim astrologer, Catholic monks and exorcists, American Mormon bishops, scholars and missionaries. Through it all, we are stirred by the antithetical feel of entitlement and destitution, barbarism and lyricism, infinity and insanity.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Great idea to spread Haitian books into the diaspora, every one from all cultures will benefit from that endeavor.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *