(2023) Spirit of Haiti (A Novel) – 20th Anniversary Edition – SUNY Press
A moving tale of contemporary Haiti told through the intersecting lives of four young people struggling to hold on to hope and their identities amid a militarized coup in the early 1990s.
Vivid and poignant, Spirit of Haiti follows the intersecting lives of four young witnesses to military-ruled Haiti during the early 1990s. Léah, an apparition, rises from the sea like a siren one morning off the coast of Cap Haitien, clothes untouched by water, blue stones wrapped around her neck, eyes blind to light. Soon to be a mother, Carmen returns to Haiti from Canada as if responding to the call of the vodou spirits. Alexis flees the island in search of a land without strife. Finally, there is Philippe, who walks the northern hills alert to ancestral voices still haunting its peaks and valleys. Doing what he must to get by in the tourist trade and now weakened by illness, he struggles to maintain spiritual dignity and a hold on hope. First published in 2003 and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize in the Caribbean and Canada region, Spirit of Haiti is a novel about confronting the failings of the human heart and the triumph of memory over despair.
Myriam J. A. Chancy is Hartley Burr Alexander Chair in the Humanities at Scripps College. She is the author of several scholarly books and works of fiction, including the widely acclaimed 2021 novel, What Storm, What Thunder.
“Myriam Chancy conjures up not only the past which continues to haunt … but also the loas and spirits of the dead. She deftly weaves her narrative and, via the perspectives of her characters, sheds light on the circumstances and emotional complexity of those who emigrate as well as those who remain behind.” — Loida Maritza Perez, author of Geographies of Home: A Novel
“Myriam Chancy’s ambitious first novel tells the story of not one, but several Haitis, at crucial historical periods. Through captivating and well-developed characters, we also share in the experience of the Haitian diaspora, who, even as they leave Haiti, take its joys and pains with them.” — Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory
“From sea water, pearl oyster shells and sand stones, from blood, memory and ancestral voices—these are some of the precious substances that make up Myriam J. A. Chancy’s polyvocal, resonant debut. Spirit of Haiti is novel as art installation, shifting the reader’s awareness from geographical and temporal fixity to a sensitive consciousness of the living, dynamic kinship ties from the shores of West Africa to the rivers in the southern United States, north to rebellious fires in Canada, all circling Haiti at the center. Through the characters who must contend with the imminent military coup of Aristide’s first presidency as memories of the Duvalier regime and the Haitian Revolution echo, Chancy reminds us of the ways we forget the humanity in each other that imperil us and the ways we remember that keep us whole.” — Akilah White, critic
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