Saturday, May 16, 2020

Ayiti, Cheri - Haitian Heritage Month and a Novel that Celebrates Her


Oh to love your mother, your family, and your ancestral homeland.
To want to know her in a deeper way.
To yearn and long to discover her secrets, to see behind the polished or even the tarnished.
To want so much for something that one runs full speed and figures out any mistakes later.
Ah, to have life and love it.

Two Haitian American sisters, Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, have given us a gift in their YA novel, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

It is compelling and inviting, a truly American story, for everyone other than First Nation peoples, has origins in another land. The parts of the land that live in folklore, songs, foods, dances, and memories are the gifts we can pause to celebrate. That is, if we want to reach beyond a homogenized image of what it means to be, and embrace all the complex diversity that is humanity. Even a truly Haitian story with all but a few characters being descendants from the first Independent Black Nation in the Western Hemisphere. That made it unique.

This story is told through the voice of a senior in high school.


Kiden-Aloyse, my daughter, Class of 2020, a writer
I have a daughter who just graduate high school in a parade because of Covid19 interrupting her celebrations. Her time in a place shapes her perspective, much like the sisters who wrote this story at home, waiting the coming Category 4 Hurricane that past Miami. What resulted from their shelter-in-place is a tremendous gift of literature that challenges what we consider a viable story.

The protagonist, Alaine Beauparlant, clearly has her own view of the world and her own voice that she is determined to use, even if it ends up with a consequence in her Miami school that gets her sent to Haiti. She is like Generation Z, knowledgeable, technologically astute, assured of their voice in a way that they refuse to squelch it, and are just impulsive enough to take an adventure that may or may not answer the questions their questions.

The treasure of this 422 tome is that there are so many little trinkets in the deep chest that is presented as a senior's final project set over the course of a school year that is meant to highlight an important person or time in history for a creative writing class.

Each of the five parts of this project follows the course of this story that will appeal to young readers as well as women like me, who are far enough away from their ancestral homeland to pine for any nugget of connection to it.  I am descended from the Island of Hispaniola,  through ancestry that has my ties to both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, my origins going as far back as a time before the Haitian Revolution, to the time when destinies clashed - my ancestor from Lyon, France sent there to create wealth and my African ancestor who was captured from West Africa, had the will to live, and survived the Transatlantic to become part of the fabric of this island in the Caribbean Sea. What makes Caribbean/West Indian heritage a bit unique as compared to my paternal Black in America story,  is that they were able to hold onto centuries of belonging and being; they could point to a place, a people, a lore, a culture, and a family line stretching back beyond 1865. What makes this book compelling is that it reminds us that even in a place with a shared history, everyone has a different story, a different experience. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, invites us to consider power, position, desire, and hope, much like Haiti herself. 


 In America, my heritage is Louisiana Creole, beginning in the French Quarter,New Orleans.  Like Alaine, we have heard the stories, of my Ybre' and Guyol de Guiran  ancestors, and may have wondered about curses or blessings. There is a yearning that is not only first or second generations from immigrants, but a part of all of us that reaches back through time to understand our present.  One of the gifts of the Black immigrant story in Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, is that it invites us to cherish our origin, our story, for there isn't a single one. 

It is the weekend, Today is my late mother's birthday, a beautiful Creole woman who died when I was four and like Alaine, long to know. We are still in the midst of  a Covid19 Spring. It is Haitian Heritage Month and from Miami to New York to New Orleans to St. Louis to Boston, Haitian Americans are honoring, remembering, telling, re-telling, and dancing in the joy of belonging to this beautiful peoples. Whether we are recent immigrant, first, second, or even ten generations away, there is something magical about this place that calls us home.

This is a perfect tale to spend some time with a coffee and tray of cookies to settle in for an adventure that is truly a family moment in a moment when we need to remember that we are what matters.

I highly recommend this book. 

Follow the authors on Twitter - @maikamoulite - Maika Moulite and @MaritzaMoulite - Maritza Moulite.

You can follow me on Twitter - @lattegriot or on Instagram @Antona2020. Or if I were to say my spirit name, I'm Afua Tayé
 Ybré and I discovered a bit of myself in Alaine.

©2020 
Tayé Foster Bradshaw
for my late father, my late mother, and my late grandmother - my ancestors who gave the pen


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