Saturday, August 13, 2005

Book Review: Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Voodoo and Civil Strife in Haiti

Madame Dread
A Tale of Love, Voodoo and Civil Strife in Haiti
by Kathie Klareich

BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Editors, Journalists, Publishers Thunder's Mouth Press
Fall 2005

When Kathie Klarreich travelled to tropical and mountaineous Haiti on a shopping trip for Haitian artefacts for her arts shop in San Fransisco, little did she know that Haiti was going to feature prominently in her life from that moment on.

On her first week theref, she was sitting across from the Haitian National Palace at a cafe sipping coffee with a friend when, to her shocked surprise, armed militia trucks burst into the palace in a coup d'etat that ousted Leslie Manigat and installed General Prosper Avril as the President of Haiti instead. In a flash, Kathie, an aspiring journalist as well, realized that her being in Haiti was a unique opportunity to report on topical events, after all, how many journalists could actually attest to living in Haiti? Most of them flew in after an episode and then flew out again when they had handed in their news report. She intuitively felt that by living in Haiti she might have found herself a niche and sure enough, in the months that followed, she was paid by the Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, NBC, NPR etc. to cover events in Haiti as they happened. And as political stability in Haiti was so short-lived, there was a lot to keep her busy.

But work wasn't the only thing that kept her in Haiti---she fell in love with a Haitian drummer and they had a child together. She fell in love with the food, the culture, the music, the language Creole, the people and best of all, with voodoo which is an intrinsic part of Haitian culture. Her chapter "Voudou Jew" is an excellent informative piece on voudism in Haiti and I would urge readers to read it and be fascinated.

The book also reads as a fascinating political documentary of Haiti from the late '80's to the current year as Ms. Klarreich covers in detail most of the coups starting from when Averil took over to when Astride (a former Roman Catholic priest) was deposed for the second time. Being on the ground right where the action is and reporting the coups while they were taking place, she is able to give a first-hand report of what took place---fascinating if you are a Haiti or Carribean observer. Her interviews with Astride also provide a rare insight to the man who Haitians placed so much hope on, but who appeared to have feet of clay in the end.