Saturday, January 7, 2012
Ayiti by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When I received this book, I did not know what Ayiti meant. It is the Haitian Creole pronunciation of Haiti, of course, but Americans have a preconception of the country. Our media tells us what to think of Haiti. It is a hopeless place. Dictators. Tragedy. They can't govern themselves, we need our soldiers there, to treat them like little children. After reading Roxane Gay's short stories, I have a better idea of the place and the people. I wouldn't profess to know it, but her raw and emotional tales of love and loss, hate and pride, the defensiveness and criticism of a country that only someone who has lived there and left and returned can give, they paint a picture that will forever remain in your mind. Some stories are a mere page long, flash fiction, short sharp cuts that sting long after the page is turned. Longer works are dreamlike and engrossing, immigrant tales, survival tales, as dark and brutal as hardboiled crime fiction with their relentless truth and emotional power.
"Things I Know About Fairy Tales" is a story of a kidnapping that hangs over my shoulder like a ghost with fetid breath, days after reading it. [A Love Story], a zombi tale, chilled me to the bone. A ledger book of expenses required to escape on a boat to Miami made me want to curl up and eat my own heart. But there is also joy and playfulness, as a Haitian girl confronts the ignorance of her college friends, and a news article that Nicaragua is now the poorest country in the Western hemisphere is rife with her darkly cynical humor.
I was surprised and impressed, and I'll be lending this book to readers and writers alike. A slim 120 pages, it can be read in an afternoon. I'll warn you, it packs emotional power that belies its size, and you'd do best to savor one story at a time.
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