"ISLAND IN the Sun" (Recommended Reading, June 17) displayed a superficial and distorted picture of Haiti. Those truly knowledgeable about the country dismiss the book by William Seabrook recommended in that piece as a classic example of negative stereotyping. It was written in connection with the U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1915, which resulted in fierce resistance by the population, "indiscriminate killings" by American troops and use of the term "Gooks" when applied to Haitians, as reported in The Nation in July 1920.
True, a "rich and fascinating body of literature" is available to those who want to understand Haiti, its people, traditions, unique history and current situation. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the Saint-Domingue Revolution, by C.L.R. James (Random House) is a fascinating book about the only successful slave revolution that gave rise to a modern nation: Haiti. The book describes the revolution in the larger context of European rivalries, the economics of the slave trade and the abolitionist movement, the French and American revolutions and subsequent developments in the Caribbean.
Papa Doc, Baby Doc: Haiti and the Duvaliers, by James Ferguson (Basil Blackwell) is an insightful account of contemporary events in Haiti, viewed in their historical context. The focus is on Haiti under the Duvaliers, the violent disintegration of their regime and the "unfinished" revolution of today. The impact of foreign aid -- provided in spite of government corruption -- and of trade policies on Haitian emigration is also examined.
The Rainy Season, by Amy Wilentz (Simon and Schuster), a journey of discovery by a writer/reporter in post-Duvalier Haiti, is action-packed and reads like a novel. It covers a broad spectrum of Haitian society, from Port-au-Prince to the countryside, from wealthy members of the urban elite to shantytown dwellers, from generals in power to opposition political activists, from the Catholic hierarchy and American Protestant ministers to traditional Haitian voodoo priests.
All three books are well documented, yet lively. Most important, they are free of prejudice and condescension. MARIE-THERESE LABOSSIERE THOMAS Alexandria
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