Haiti: A Feast of Women’s Voices
Despite the many limitations and expectations placed on women by Haitian society, women writers are finding their voices, inspiring others, and changing the way the world thinks about the motherland. Through poetry and prose, these authors have broken free of cultural limitations and the (un)conscious biases that sometimes keep women from the transgressive act of writing honestly about their lived and inherited experiences. They explore various post-colonial themes, with topics ranging from family turmoil and personal struggles, to political and social warfare.
From familiar publications like the New Yorker to lesser-known online outlets like My Brown Baby and everywhere in-between, women writers of Haitian descent are staking out their space in the online world and offering a post-colonial view of Haitian culture that is refreshing, informative, and innovative in approach. There is no limitation to the scope, genre and topics these women are exploring in their work. Below is a list of online publications where you can find contemporary writers of Haitian descent.
In open defiance of the cultural norms that have limited their voices for centuries, today women writers of Haitian descent are creating bold, inspirational texts that turn the popular, canned, media-regulated view of Haiti and its diaspora on its head, and offer an honest, nuanced, and transgressive view of post-colonial Haitian society, its history, and culture. This list features not only familiar, literary powerhouses, like Roxane Gay and Edwidge Danticat, but up-and-coming authors who deserve recognition, like Katia Ulysse and Fabienne Josaphat.
(This list of books by women writers of Haitian descent does not include self-published books, or books published by vanity presses and other nontraditional publishers. The list does not include educational materials or children’s books.)
Krik? Krak! As a child, at the signal for storytelling time, you’d find me there, ears perked, pulse pounding for another exciting round of storytelling adventure. Whether it was a fantastic folktale or gossip about the neighbors, nothing excited me as much as hearing stories. Haiti is rich in an oral tradition that has its roots in the suppression of Creole by colonizers and later, the Haitian government. Love of literacy starts early. This list of children’s books by Haitian writers is certain to spark the same joy I felt as a child and perhaps lead to a life-long love of books, and a greater understanding of Haitian culture.
Like walking naked through a crowded city street, it requires courage to write honestly about one’s life, and these writers bravely detail the challenges and triumphs of life as a woman writer of Haitian descent. Included in this list are literature and culture blogs, personal blogs, and author websites, all worth exploring for their expansive view of Haitian culture.
Do you want to help improve the lists of women writers with ties to Haiti and/or whose work highlight island culture and interests? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interesting Articles about Haitian Literature
Far from the dystopian nightmare of poverty and tragedy portrayed in the media, Haiti is a land rich in cultural heritage and art that is complex in its beauty and diverse in its depictions of Haitian life and culture. The history of Haitian literature is gripping, vibrant, and has left its mark on a global scale with innovations such as magical realism. The articles below explore the many facets of both contemporary Haitian literature and its history, and also serve as a primer, both for readers of Haitian descent, and for those just beginning to explore the literature of Haiti and its diaspora.
- Haiti in Ink and Tears: A Literary Sampler, by Madison Smartt Bell
- The Magical World of Haitian Literature: A Primer, by Patti M. Marxsen
- Telling Stories from Haiti: Dany Lafferiere and Authenticity and Authority in Autobiography, by Lee Skallerup Bessette