It Was LIT: A Little Haiti Book Festival Recap

Whew. What a busy two days!

Somehow I had never heard of the Little Haiti Book Festival until this weekend! A few weeks ago, I came across a Facebook post from the Miami Book Fair about the two day event down in Miami. They advertised a two day schedule that kicked off with a Saturday night keynote presentation with Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian author and Jacqueline Charles, a Haitian journalist.

Edwidge Danticat? Sign.me.up. 

Danticat is a favorite of mine and many of her books are on my shelf. The first book of hers that I read was Beyond the Mountains, a Middle Grade novel about a young Haitian girl who moves from Haiti to New York.

After that, I read many of her other books, included Breath, Eyes, Memory, Krik Krak, The Dew Breaker, and Brother I am Dying. I was also lucky enough to get an advance copy of her children’s book, Mama’s Nightingale. 

On Saturday night, I arrived at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex’s auditorium with my friend and our daughters, and we scored front row seats! After a few poetry and dance performances in Creole, Danticat and Charles took the stage.

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The presentation was called “Haiti: Facts and Fiction” and they both discussed their careers, the state of Haiti, and their roles in the Diaspora. The two women could have talked for hours, and I would have sat glued to my seat, enjoying every minute.

One of the highlights was Danticat’s comments about her writing process and her approach to writing deeply personal narratives. Charles talked about her observance of the Haitian millennials’ desire to “change the narrative of Haiti.” It’s great, Charles argued. But there has to be work done first in order to change the narrative.

That stayed with me for a while.

I confess, I’m one of those “millennial” Haitians in the Diaspora who wants the narrative of Haiti to be less about poverty and suffering. But I also agree with Charles that changing the narrative of Haiti needs to be less about glossy PR and more about real change.

As a first time attendee of the book festival, I left impressed. All of the events were free, and everything seemed very well-organized.

On Sunday, they had activities for the kids including drumming, arts and crafts, and story time. I also attended another panel discussion that included four Haitian women debut authors.

It was a perfect two day event in a venue that felt very intimate.

Here are some tips if you’re planning on going next year:

  1. Arrive early. There are two free parking lots that fill up very quickly. Also, on Saturday we arrived around 6pm and missed the Caribbean Marketplace next door that is only open on Saturdays from 10-6.
  2.  Enjoy the food! My friend ate griot (fried pork) and I ate some plantains with pikliz (a spicy cole slaw) Yum!
  3. Dance! On both days, there were DJs and live music. Sweat a little (or a lot) and use one of the many promotional flyers hanging around to fan yourself.
  4. Buy Books! Visit the booths or the Haitian owned book store down the street, Liberi Mapou. I visited  Liberi Mapou and bought two books at full price (my little frugal heart was hurting), but it was for a great cause. #buyblack #supportindepenentbookstores

Overall, it was a great weekend, and an organized and well planned out event. If you’re in South Florida next year and  plan on going, hit me up on Twitter! Maybe I’ll see you there!

Click on the images below to learn more about Edwidge Danticat’s titles:

Enjoy!


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