09 March 2012

Imprint Friday: A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Algonquin Books. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Normally I schedule my Imprint Friday posts to coincide with the book's release date. Today is an exception. Julia Alvarez's A Wedding in Haiti is available for preorder but will not be on bookstore shelves until April. Why the early introduction? I was so taken with this account of Alvarez's travels to Haiti that I just didn't want to wait.

Take a look at the publisher's summary:

Julia Alvarez has been called "a one-woman cultural collision" by the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and that has never been truer than in this story about three of her most personal relationships—with her parents, with her husband, and with a young Haitian boy known as Piti. A teenager when Julia and her husband, Bill, first met him in 2001, Piti crossed the border into the Dominican Republic to find work. Julia, impressed by his courage, charmed by his smile, has over the years come to think of him as a son, even promising to be at his wedding someday. When Piti calls in 2009, Julia’s promise is tested.

To Alvarez, much admired for her ability to lead readers deep inside her native Dominican culture, "Haiti is like a sister I’ve never gotten to know." And so we follow her across the border into what was once the richest of all the French colonies and now teeters on the edge of the abyss—first for the celebration of a wedding and a year later to find Piti’s loved ones in the devastation of the earthquake. As in all of Alvarez’s books, a strong message is packed inside an intimate, beguiling story, this time about the nature of poverty and of wealth, of human love and of human frailty, of history and of the way we live now.
A Wedding in Haiti is, as the book summary says, the story of how Alvarez's chance meeting with a Keryòl-speaking Haitian teen turned into a true friendship, which eventually led to two trips across the often difficult border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. To tell this story, however, Alvarez must also tell us how she and her husband came to own a coffee farm in the Dominican Republic and that tale, in turn, requires a bit of the author's personal background and a glimpse into her family life.

So what kind of book is A Wedding in Haiti? It's a mix of travelogue, memoir, meditations on tragedy and happiness, and musings about how life takes us to unexpected places if we let it. Alvarez's conversational style softens her deep convictions about the human condition, and the impact of her writing is subtle and sometimes surprising.

There are people who do good work and then write about it to ask for our help or to extoll their own virtues. Then there is Julia Alvarez, who unselfconsciously does the right thing and then simply, guilelessly shares her story.

I'll leave you with a quote.
There is a Keryòl saying, God's pencil has no eraser. I've always understood the saying to mean that God doesn't need to erase. He makes no mistakes; his creation is perfect. But I now understand that saying in a more fatalistic way. There is no erasing or escaping the relentless march of events. And when that march tramples your loved ones or plays havoc in your part of the world (whether Haiti, Chile, New Zealand, Japan, or our own USA), you do what you have to do: you mourn, you bury your dead, you get up the next day and cook for the ones who are left, braid hair, sing songs, tell stories. Somehow you get through. As for the rest of us, we look, we listen, we try to help—even when it seems there is nothing we can do.

The one thing we cannot do is turn away. For our humanity also does not have the eraser option. When we have seen a thing, we have an obligation. To see and to allow ourselves to be transformed by what we have seen. (p. 280)
Algonquin Books is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For more information about the imprint, please read Executive Editor Chuck Adams's introductory letter, posted here on January 7, 2011.

A Wedding in Haiti at Powell's
A Wedding in Haiti at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Workman / Algonquin Books, April 2012
ISBN-13: 9781616201302


Martha @ Hey, I want to read that 3/9/12, 10:22 AM  

I can see why you're excited about this one. It sounds just amazing. I'll have to mark my calendar.

Sandy Nawrot 3/9/12, 11:45 AM  

I do not blame you for wanting to share this! For some reason, the name really rings a bell. She has either been on my watch list in the past or I've read something of hers. Going to do a little more looking. I can't wait until this one comes out!

Sandy Nawrot 3/9/12, 11:47 AM  

Ah, now I remember! My book club was going to read In the Time of the Butterflies (one member read it and LOVED it) but we ended up not selecting it because it wasn't available on Kindle. (One woman has ALS and that is the only way she can read.) I still want to read it though...

Belle Wong 3/9/12, 12:39 PM  

This sounds like an interesting memoir, with lots of substance. I can see why you're so excited by it!

Daryl 3/9/12, 12:39 PM  

Sounds like a good story ... but I am going to pass because I need escapism vs visiting other people's reality ..

Zibilee 3/9/12, 2:38 PM  

Oh, that quote that you posted was so beautiful, and true. I think I would love this book, and will be looking for it when it comes out. It sounds like an amazing story and one that I need to read. Amazing review today!

Booksnyc 3/9/12, 8:07 PM  

This is just the kind of book I enjoy - putting it on my TBR!

Darlene 3/9/12, 8:38 PM  

I love that quote and this book sounds amazing. I'll definitely be on the lookout for it when it comes out.

Beth Kephart 3/10/12, 6:36 AM  

I have been eager for her "next" thing. Thank you so much for letting us know.

Barbara 3/10/12, 10:19 AM  

I love memoirs and this one sounds wonderful.

Karen White 3/10/12, 12:13 PM  

Reading and learning about Haiti is something that I have resisted - such overwhelming potential sadness that I'll end up feeling guilty and powerless about. (not very attractive, but it's true) But I am tempted to be taken on the journey by Alvarez. I love how you describe her approach to life and writing. Thanks for sharing it!

Julie P. 3/12/12, 7:34 AM  

This looks like one that I should definitely read. Sounds fascinating.

Serena 3/12/12, 11:43 AM  

I also received this. I have Alvarez's poetry, but this would be a first of this writing from her for me.

bermudaonion 3/12/12, 7:30 PM  

This sounds like the perfect book for me!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 3/12/12, 10:23 PM  

This looks fantastic - Alvarez has packed a lot into this book. Travelogue/memoir PLUS inspiration.

Great quote, too.

picky 3/14/12, 9:53 PM  

I really respect and admire Julia Alvarez. I teach some of her essays and an excerpt of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, and I am really excited to know there is something coming from her so soon!

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