book review: In Darkness

title: In Darkess

author: Nick Lake

date: Bloomsbury, January 2012

main character: Shorty


Nick Lake tells the story of Haiti by combining the stories of Toussaint L’Overture and Shorty. When we meet Shorty, he is trapped in a hospital that has collapsed on him in the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country. He uses his time in darkness to tell us about his life and why he was in the hospital. In his telling, we probably learn as much about Haiti as we do about Shorty because the gang violence and religious beliefs that are part of Shorty’s life are also very much part of Haiti. Perhaps only in a culture that believes in voodoo and Zombies could Toussaint and Shorty become one. Or do they? Is Lake artistically stating that Haiti’s past and present is linked in darkness?

Biggie stopped the car.

Y’a  pwoblem? he said.

Gen pwoblem, said Manman. Not with you, anyway, Biggie. But that’s my son in your car. My kid.

Biggie laughed.

–I don’t see a kid, he said. I see a soldier. My frere chouchou. This kid’s one of my bodyguards. I love him, man. I love all my soldiers.

Manman looked at the gun in my hand. She said:

–Chita chouter yon your wap fait goal.

That’s something Manman used to say to me a lot. It means if you keep shooting, you’ll make a goal. It means, if you keep doing that, you’ll get what you’re aiming for. It means basically, stop doing that, or you’ll get what you deserve.

Usually I laughed when Manman said it; it’s such an old woman thing to say. But then I had a gun in my hand and she was talking about shooting and it made me uncomfortable.

Lake’s experience in Haiti helps him creatively recreate the textures of Haitian life. It is a story about a narrow part of Haiti but it is also a story that takes us to a small place in the world that readers wouldn’t otherwise know. In the Author’s Note, Lake tells us that the neighborhood in which the story is set is perhaps the most violent place on earth. He writes about its violence, bondage, pain and history and somehow in all this, he manages to provide a sliver of hope that the Haitians will indeed one day be free.


What a beautiful blue Sunday! Colts blue, that is! If you need another reason to cheer the Colts on this evening, check out their commitment to literacy.

Always committed to literacy is PaperTigers. They’re all about multicultural books for young people with a focus on voices in the Pacific Rim. This past week, PaperTigers kicked off their Spirit of PaperTigers Project which promotes literacy by putting multicultural books into the hands of children all over the globe. Of particular interest this year, is the need for books in Haiti.  PT links to IBBY’s Children in Crisis Fund as one reliable way to donate. As immediate needs from this devastation are addressed, long term development issues will come to the forefront and this will certainly include the need for educational materials. These will be critical as Haiti gets a footing on the path to becoming self sustaining. The ALA has developed a fund with the MCCA to get libraries going again.

I would suggest donating to one of these funds rather than collecting bunches of used books to ship overseas.

  • Books are heavy to ship!
  • Haiti’s infrastructure (which includes postal services) is quite strained right now.
  • People want/need to read books that relate to them. Haitians speak Creole, a blend of French and local languages. It would be best to have books in their own language.
  • Local librarians can best select books that will meet local wants and needs.

Another take on developing literacy is Internet access. It’s difficult to believe that someone would find it difficult to see Internet access as a civil right! With no access, students cannot fully develop skills necessary to thrive in today’s world. Access to job applications, consumer information and government services is severely limited when one has no access. Thanks to Teaching Paperless for highlighting this issue!

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich invited me Faves on Friday where I did a post to help teachers and librarians form meaningful collaborations to celebrate Black History Month. Of course, the ideas are generic enough to adapt to celebrate any culture.

In another attempt to promote literacy this week, I’ve compiled two African American author’s lists, one for middle grades and the other for young adults. If you’re favorite book isn’t there, remember these lists are meant to contain contemporary African American authors. YA’s: I didn’t do the Kimani Trus. Yes, they are GREAT books, there are just too, too many and no way to link to the imprint instead of each individual book. And, there will be author’s I’ve completely missed. I do hope you’ll post or email those I need to add to the list!

Middle Grades

Young Adult

More for Haiti

Heifer International is issuing an emergency appeal for funds to help families in Haiti recover and restore their lives following yesterday’s catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake.

“Heifer is by no means a traditional first responder,” said Steve Denne, Heifer’s chief operating officer, “but we have projects and partner families in Haiti who likely have lost everything, and now with this devastation, the need is even greater than before. This appeal will help us help our current families begin to rebuild their lives, and provide the chance to help even more families recover from this devastating blow.”

The massive 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti was the strongest to hit the country in 200 years.

Heifer has worked in Haiti for 10 years, currently supporting 16 projects with more than 16,000 families and several farmer associations. Our projects are scattered around the country and range from training in sustainable farming and crop diversity to gifts of livestock, seeds, trees and grains to training in nutrition, aquaculture and fish production.

Give today to help rebuild lives in Haiti.

“It’s essential that we prepare to follow the important work of first responders,” said Denne. “While they provide emergency food, medical care and aid, we offer our hopes and prayers for the victims and the families, but at the same time, we must prepare for the next wave of help — giving people the tools and the ongoing help to rebuild their lives and their livelihoods.”

Heifer International has seven employees in Haiti. At the time of this writing, there has been little contact with Heifer staff or partners in Haiti, though efforts continue. “Our thoughts are with them, and we are preparing to respond with the most appropriate and most needed help we can,” said Denne. “This is a country that even in the best of times faces hardships most of us cannot imagine.”

“We, all of us, have an obligation — a duty — to help any way we can.”

Funds raised in this appeal will be used in the recovery and rebuilding effort in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. Any funds that exceed the level needed to provide relief in this rebuilding effort will go toward the disaster relief fund and for the entire mission of Heifer International.


Ashley Michael
Heifer International

Haitian Help

I received this information in an email last week, however giving recent events in Haiti, I thought it should be shared so that others could have the opportunity to support this well established endeavor.

Meet, Eat, Drink, Dance, Donate!

Bead and sequined banner: "La Sirenne"What: The 8th Annual Merci D’Avance Dance
(Thanks in Advance Dance)

Where: Messina Italian Restaurant
When: Saturday 16 January 6 pm – midnight
Cost: $20 at the door; Italian buffet and 2 raffle tickets

Every year our winter dance fundraiser ensures that the small, rural community of Matènwa, Haiti will continue the economic development and education so crucial to their growth and survival.

Matenwa is a small, rural Haitian community in the mountains of Lagonav, an island in Haiti’s great, blue bay. Life on Lagonav is spare and hard. Poverty forces deforestation that ruins the balance of nature, eroding away the topsoil – which in turn washes down to the sea killing off edible fish.

The village of Matenwa has survived for generations by farming small family plots and slowly turning trees into charcoal for sale. Women and children travel miles to collect precious water from a scattering of mountain springs. It becomes more and more difficult to survive by doing things the old ways in a region largely abandoned by the Haitian government. There is a constant struggle to afford rice, fuel and medicine. Women, who do much of the labor and child-raising, battle to keep their families fed, often depending on other family members, or men who have less work as traditional farming methods fail.  Learn More.

In case of a blizzard, please consider donating by check

or on our website.  Thanks in advance!