"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Friday, January 15, 2010

Books for Children and Young Adults set in Haiti

As I work on a post about Haiti, its beauty, and what the country and its people mean to me, I'd like to direct you to Mitali Perkins' blog, where she compiled a list of books for children and Young Adults set in Haiti. I particularly like "Tap Tap" and "Painted Dreams," by Karen Lynn Williams. And Edwige Danticat's "Behind The Mountains" is a touching novel.

Tap-Tap by Karen Lynn Williams: Book Cover
Behind the Mountains (First Person Fiction)Painted Dreams by Karen Lynn Williams: Book Cover

As I mentioned in Mitali's comment section, I find it interesting that the last picture book set in Haiti was published five years ago. For almost a year, now, I've been trying to find a publisher for a picture book manuscript set in Haiti. The title (tentative, as always) is "The Pulse of Papa's Land," and it is the story of a child from the Haitian diaspora who travels to Haiti with her father for the first time. I have received very nice rejection mentioning the music of the text and what not, but rejections nevertheless. I know, the economic situation, etc, etc. It is still out there, anyway. I have not given up...

That story had been lurking around in my mind for a few years. It was more like images, really. My mother in law's garden, in Fermathe. The Citadelle. My father in law's boundless energy, and his contagious joy in the small pleasures of life. A pick-up truck bouncing up a dirt mountain road. A drum beating in the night.

When I came back home after our last trip in Haiti in the summer of 2008,  the story just poured out of me. I worked at it for several months, wrote half a dozen drafts, and finally, in May 2009, I felt it was ready. It has since gone through two more revisions, and I'm now pretty confident about it (and believe me when I say that this is not my usual state of mind - I'm more like your average pathologically anxious female Woody Allen - if only I were half as funny.) But the feedback has always been very positive, and most of all, I truly poured my heart out with this story. It touches themes that resonate deeply within me : the longing and confusion that come with wanting to belong and feeling foreign at the same time, the mysterious ways in which one person's culture and heritage can be a part of their soul fabric without them even knowing about it, and the special relationship between a father and his daughter. And it allowed me to write about the beauty of Haiti and its people, as opposed to the dry comments one finds in the press about the "most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere." I so long to see books that celebrate this country's spirit and resilience, its joyful people and its rich and vibrant culture.

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