Haiti: A Reading List

How we can help Haiti move forward, through understanding. By now we all realize that poverty, not just the Richter Scale,...

How we can help Haiti move forward, through understanding.

By now we all realize that poverty, not just the Richter Scale, contributed to the devastation in Haiti. Even after donating to the relief effort, many of us feel helpless as we sit comfortably in safety and privilege. How might we continue to help? Well, once the rebuilding begins, Haiti will need us, and to do our part, we can start by acquiring an understanding of the country's history, culture, religion, and mores.

Amy Wilentz's The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier is a brilliant social history and personal story about Haiti during the end of the Duvaliar reign, and the astonishing rise of Aristide. Wilentz's reporting and generous voice provides a superb introduction to the history of the country, set against the backdrop of momentous change.

Madison Smart Bell has published a trilogy of novels about the Haitian Revolution. The first book, All Souls' Rising, tells the story of the slave revolt that ended colonial rule in Haiti in the 18th century. The novel won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race in 1996, and was a National Book Award finalist. Bell also penned a biography of the leader of Haitian Revolution, Toussaint Louverture. Recently, he wrote a piece for The New York Times on "Haiti in Ink and Tears: A Literary Sampler."

Edwidge Danticat is a well-known Haitian American writer. Her novel Breath, Eyes, Memory was an Oprah Book Club pick. Her non-fiction account of immigration, Brother, I'm Dying, won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Danticat recommends titles for those seeking to better understand her country of origin.

In the 1930s, the amazing novelist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston visited Haiti and wrote a fascinating study of the nation in Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life In Haiti and Jamaica.

To better understand the relationship between the two nations that share the island of Hispaniola, Michele Wucker's Why The Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola is a good bet.

Many of us have heard or read Tracy Kidder's impassioned pleas to help the Haitian organization Partners in Health. His book Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure The World provides the astounding backstory of Paul Farmer and Partners in Health. The title of Kidder's book comes from a Haitian proverb: "Beyond mountains there are mountains"-overcome one hurdle and you find another one, and you must find a way to conquer that one, too.

It's true: Donations will help us summit the first mountain. And books will help fortify us as we prepare in for the long haul.


In the category of "claims to fame nobody wants," the United States can now add "exporter of white supremacist ideology" to its repertoire. Super.

Russell Travers, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, made this claim in a briefing at The Washington Institute in Washington, D.C. "For almost two decades, the United States has pointed abroad at countries who are exporters of extreme Islamist ideology," Travers said. "We are now being seen as the exporter of white supremacist ideology. That's a reality with which we are going to have to deal."

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Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

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The Planet

An anonymous White House official claims President Trump cruelly limited Hispanic immigrants in their new book, "A Warning."

The book, to be released on November 19, gives an alleged insider account of the Trump White House and paints a picture of the president as a chaotic man who lacks the mental and moral acumen required for the job.

The anonymous staffer says that Trump once feigned a Hispanic accent and made fun of women attempting to immigrate to the U.S.

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via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

The 2020 election is a year away, but Donald Trump has some serious ground to cover if he doesn't want it to be a historical blowout.

A Washington Post- ABC News poll released Tuesday shows that Trump loses by double digits to the top Democratic contenders.

Vice President Joe Biden (56%-39%); Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (54%-39%); Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (56%-39%); South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (52%-41%); and Sen. Kamala Harris of California (52%-41%) all have big leads over the president.

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Yad Vashem

Since 1992, the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous has been holding reunion ceremonies between Holocaust survivors and rescuers once a year. But the tradition is coming to an end, as many have died or are too frail to travel. What might be the last reunion of its kind took place when a 92-year-old woman met up with the two surviving family members that she helped hide during the Holocaust, and their descendants.

Sarah Yanai and Yossi Mor introduced Melpomeni Dina (nee Gianopoulou) to their almost 40 family members, all decedents of the Mordechai family, the family of seven that Dina and her two sisters hid during WWII. "There are no words to describe this feeling," Dina told the Jeruselum Post. "It is very emotional for us to be together again."

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