NiteTalk: Edwidge Danticat Gives Us Haiti Noir

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Folks too often forget that Haiti's a country consisting of people, not just victims, and that those people each have singular stories. Of course, reading the wondrous work of Edwidge Danticat would remedy that; and so would hitting MOCA on Saturday to hear Danticat and company read from the stirring Haiti Noir. What are we waiting for?

How'd you come to be involved with Haiti Noir? I am a big fan of Akashic's Noir Series. When Johnny Temple, the publisher of the series, called to ask if I would be willing to edit a book in the series, set in Haiti, I jumped at the opportunity because I knew that some wonderful "noir- type" stories would come out of Haiti, from both writers living in and outside of the country.

Who are some of the writers you've included in this edition?
Some are  younger writers (M.J. Fievre, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, Katia Ulysse, Marvin Victor, Nadine Pinede, Marie Lily Cerat, Patrick Sylvain, Marie Ketsia Theodore-Pharel). Others are older, established writers who have been publishing in different genres for years and are extremely well known in Haiti (Gary Victor, Kettly Mars, Evelyne Trouillot, Josaphat-Robert Large, Louis Philippe Dalembert, Rodney Saint-Eloi, Yanick Lahens). All but two (Madison Smartt Bell and Mark Kurlansky) are Haitian or of Haitian descent.

Was there a specific process behind selecting the stories? I approached some writers I knew then tried to spread the word as much as possible. I basically asked the writers to create their version of "noir" and have fun. We got many wonderful submissions. Of course we couldn't publish every story. I feel bad about that.

What might folks get from this anthology that they won't get from the news coming out of the country? Often in stories of this type, when they are set in Haiti, we, Haitians, are the boogeymen, the "mysterious" element. It was wonderful to see these writers write another, more nuanced version of this. In this book, you'll get a more complex approach to Haiti's complicated and sometimes "dark" realities. You'll also enjoy yourself. It's not all about learning. It's also a fun read.

Speaking of news, what do you think about Baby Doc's surprise return? I was shocked. Why now, when there is already so much uncertainty in the country? What does he want? Who sent for him? It's a slap in the face to the thousands and thousands who were tortured and killed during his and his father's murderous regime. I hope he will be prosecuted and brought to justice.

Rumor has it Aristide is considering doing likewise. How might that affect things on the ground?
We would have to see. I think it would all depend on the way it was handled, whether there were political aspirations involved. I don't know if it was meant to have this as an outcome, but Duvalier's sudden arrival certainly makes Aristide's return more possible than it was a month ago. 

If you had your wish (or your way), who'd be running the country right now?
That would be up to the Haitian people to decide, in a truly inclusive, uncorrupted election.

Regardless of who's in charge, the stories will continue to be told. Do you see a Haiti Noir 2 sometime in the near future? It would be great, but even if we don't have Haiti Noir 2, our writers will continue writing their stories, poems, novels. We have some wonderful writers in and outside of Haiti and I am glad folks will get a chance to sample a few of them in this wonderful book. Fiction can barely keep up with the twists and turns of Haitian life, but God knows these writers are trying and they are succeeding in offering us a different, more intimate view from both inside and outside of Haiti.

Edwidge Danticat and others read from Haiti Noir on Saturday January 22, 4pm at MOCA 770 NE 125th St Miami (305) 893-6211

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