Death is a Six-Course Meal

Akashic Books Photo

Akashic Books Photo

Dark Days in Port-au-Prince is like a lavish meal, served Exquisite Corpse style–over six scrumptious courses–cooked to perfection by six Haitian writers who can’t seem to get enough of working with one another.

michele fievre phto haiti noirTheir work have been published together in various anthologies, beginning in 2001 with Butterfly’s Way: Voices from Haitian in the Dyaspora (Soho Press). Brassage (UCSB, 2005), Haiti Noir 1 (Akashic Books, 2011), So Spoke the Earth (WWOHD, 2013), Haiti Noir 2 (Akashic Books, 2014), a children’s books series, and now this.

Courses 1, 2, and 3 of Dark Days in Port-au-Prince have been served, but that won’t spoil your fine dining experience. If you have not yet savored those scrumptious dishes, they’re readily available on Akashic Book’s website.  The  4th course will be brought to your table on 1/24/14; it will  be hot–that much we can say.  And because Chez  akashicbooks.com is known for its avant-garde menu, each bite will likely thrill your taste buds.  To death.

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This is the order in which this story unfolds:  Roxane Gay (section 1), Michele Jessica Fievre (section 2) , Ibi Zoboi (section 3), Katia D. Ulysse (section 4), Josaphat-Robert Large (section 5), and Edwidge Danticat (section 6) .

HaitiNoir2_TheClassics-506x800Although many of us would love to know how the story will end, we must wait one week between each installment.

Readers know only what happened in the previous 3 sections. The writers have no clue about what twist will follow their own contributions. Join us at  akashicbooks Friday (1/24/14), before we all bite our fingernails down to the quick.

Since Master Chef, Josaphat Robert Large, always cooks up a fine story, we know his section will be plate-licking good.

Edwidge Danticat, will provide the killer ending, making this final course unforgettable.

In the meantime, dig into Katia D. Ulysse’s Part 4 on 1/24/14. Try not to burn your tongue.

Bon appétit!

“Tell Them I’m Still Here” ~ Remembering 1/12/2010

Tell Them I'm Still Here “Tell them I’m still here. Tell my sisters, my cousins, their children–I’ve never met any of their children. But tell them anyway.  Tell them Maxo said he is still alive. Di yo m’fout la toujou.” Jean-Max Simeon

“I was taking my daughter to school.  She was getting out of the car, when the ground started to shake. I yelled at her to get back in. We drove fast. You see me here.  Ask me why I’m alive. I can’t tell you what I don’t know.” Frank

SAM_0287“You realize your big house is useless. The furniture is nothing. You are afraid of your big house. The bigger it is, the faster it  kills you.” – Lucienne

“The walls stretched. They shook you. One minute I was here. Next minute I was upside down. The house was elastic. It was a miracle that we survived. ” – Nadia

large family tent“When you’re inside the tent, you feel like somebody set your skin on fire. You don’t move. You wait. You know if you live to see the next day, maybe you’ll see the one after it.” -Barbara

“After 49 years of back-breaking work in the United States, I was supposed to spend my remaining years in my own country.  Now they tell me my house collapsed.  I don’t want to hear that my life in America was for nothing.” -Myrta SAM_0288

“I didn’t know what was happening. How was I supposed to know? I held my baby, and ran. I didn’t know where we would stop. I just ran.” Nicole

“There are so many ways it is described, this ‘Thing’ that manifested itself that January afternoon, leaving Haitians in such fear that even those whose houses are undamaged will not sleep inside. ” -Actress and poet Michele Voltaire Marcelin — from “The Thing”

“Caribbean Market fell. People were screaming.  The market kept falling. The roof. The walls. The air turned to dust.” -Stanley, University student

“People in America knew more than we did. We didn’t have televisions to watch the news. We didn’t have a radio. People guessed. People repeated what they’d heard. We believed everything. We believed nothing.” – Hans

“I was sitting in my taptap, when it hit. Dozens of people tried to fit in the cab. They piled on the hood. They jumped on the roof. They wanted me to drive them away from the problem. But the problem was everywhere.” –Rodly, taptap driver

“Children asked what it was. We couldn’t tell them what it was. The children called it by the sound it made: Goudougoudou (goodoogoodoo.)  ‘Goudougoudou eats people,’ the children said. Every time the ground shook, the children cried out, ‘Goudougoudou is going to eat us too.’ ” Jenny

Mango - Papa Yiyi - February 2010

VoicesfromHaiti photo – February, 2010

“People came from everywhere. You didn’t know who they were. They had lost families and homes. They were hungry.  They asked if they could eat the green mangoes on our tree. We told them they could. We sat together and ate. Papa Yiyi planted the mango tree seven years ago. He died shortly afterwards. He would be pleased to know how many people the tree feeds now.”

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

Still shot of Anaika Saint Louis from CNN video.

“Anaika Saint Louis was just 11 years old. She wanted to live. But the world flew too far away for her arms to reach. She ran in her sleep.  Four years ago today, Anaika Saint Louis started her journey to Paradise. Every tear her innocent eyes shed was a waterfall to me. Even though Anaika and I never met, I feel as if I knew her. I remember her voice. I can still her screaming. Rest in Paradise, little angel.” – Rachelle Coriolan

Left-Over Pumpkin Soup: A Perennial Dilemma

Christmas-2006.jpgI don’t know about you, but I get so excited about Independence Day Pumpkin Soup that I make enough to feed a small village.

I usually grow my own pumpkin for the occasion. “It’s not pumpkin. It’s squash, you moron!” someone gently pointed out recently.

Thank you much. I’ll keep that in mind.

Anyway, I wake up Thanksgiving-Turkey early to concoct my Pumpkin Soup. The last thing I would want is to run out, when that lucky 3 thousandth guest arrives.

By the time I remember that the small village is actually 3 thousand miles away in beloved Haïti, I have to face the perennial dilemma: What can I possibly do with a vat of left-over soup?

For many days afterwards, the soup is resuscitated the way certain families defibrillate Thanksgiving birds: think turkey sandwiches, turkey casseroles, turkey and eggs–yum! Turkey cookies–double yum! This year’s pumpkin soup’s unmistakable aroma filled our house, while outside worlds congealed under that Polar Vortex thing. How grateful my family was!

I don’t have a problem ushering old turkey bones to a trash bin. Throwing out pumpkin soup, however, is another matter. My conscience takes every opportunity to remind me that pushing pumpkin soup down the food disposal is tantamount to dumping my heritage. Besides, what is so wrong with freezer-burnt soup carefully thawed—say, three or four weeks post Independence Day?

I say “Bon Appétit,” while presenting a steaming bowl to my American husband. It hasn’t even been two weeks since the soup sat on its first fire. The man’s eyes grow wide with what I can only describe as panic. “Do we have anything , anything else to eat in this whole-entire  house, honey?”

“Sure, sweetheart! There’s a nice divorce lawyer in the neighborhood; I’m dialing his number as we speak. I’m confident he has a briefcase full of suggestions.”

Dark Days in Port-au-Prince: AkashicBooks Serial Noir

Akashic Books Photo

Akashic Books Photo

(The following post is an excerpt from Akashic Books’ Website).

To celebrate the release of Haiti Noir 2: The Classics, edited by Edwidge Danticat, we asked contributors from both of our Haiti Noir volumes to participate in an exquisite corpse style story—a serial story in which each participant builds off of what the previous participants have written—to create an original piece of fiction with a decidedly dark tone. Check back each Friday through February 7th for a new installment of this six-part short story with sections from Roxane Gay, M.J. Fievre, Ibi Aanu Zoboi, Katia D. Ulysse, Josaphat-Robert Large, and Edwidge Danticat.

HaitiNoir2_TheClassics-506x800This first installment of Dark Days in Port-au-Prince comes from Haiti Noir 2: The Classics contributor Roxane Gay.