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I was disappointed not to go to the town of Limbe with Clement. In Haiti, Clement Benoit II is to books what Paul Farmer is to medicine. He waited for me in the open air lobby of La Plaza Hotel in Port-au-Prince while I tried to make up my mind. This was the second year in a row that I had met with him at La Plaza and he offered to take me to Limbe, his birthplace, and I had to decline. Both times, a State Department alert warned against traveling to Limbe because of riots. I’d seen similar warnings concerning Port-au-Prince and ignored them, but Limbe was three hours away.

An author who has published several poetry books, including Tach Soley, a book of poems written in Creole, Clement works tirelessly to give people access to books. His work involves establishing small libraries and delivering books on horseback to people who live in isolated rural communities. His biblio cheval, library horses, are part of his vision for raising Haiti’s literacy level, which, according to the CIA World Factbook is 52.9 percent, way lower than the rest of the Caribbean.
More… “Biblio Cheval”

Harriet Levin Millan‘s debut novel, How Fast Can You Run, based on the life of “Lost Boy” of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch has been selected as a Charter for Compassion Global Read. She’s the author of two books of poetry, and a third to appear in 2018. Among her prizes are the Barnard New Women Poets Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. She holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and directs the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing at Drexel University. Click here for more essays on The Smart Set.
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In the first years of the 19th century, Napoleon decided he’d had enough of the Haitian patriot, freedom fighter, and self-proclaimed defender of the French Revolution, Toussaint Louverture. Louverture had organized slave revolts in Haiti and defeated armies sent by the Spanish, English, and the French. A man of the Enlightenment, he took the ideas of liberté, egalité, and fraternité quite seriously. Never sentimental, Napoleon realized that France’s Caribbean colonies were heavy on the lucre, and that he needed slave labor to keep the profits flowing. Louverture had become a nuisance.

Louverture was tricked into a meeting and then captured by the French in 1802. He was brought back to France, where he lived and quickly expired in a little dungeon called Fort de Joux. But before his death, he’d managed to stir the hearts of quite a… More…

 

This was not the tourist season, and in any case the island to which we were bound was no longer an attraction for tourists” — Graham Greene, The Comedians

As we puttered along in the bumper-to-bumper Port-au-Prince traffic, rolling over occasional streams of raw sewage, Saíntil explained to us that his favorite actor was Shaquille O’Neal. He particularly liked Shaq in the movie Steel.

Saíntil made a quick shortcut through a dodgy alley and we passed a mangy, rabid dog fighting with an enormous pig — literally paw and snout — over the right to eat a pile of garbage. After the shortcut, we were back to a standstill, surrounded by the vibrant reds and blues and yellows of the crazy tap-taps carrying sardined passengers in the overcrowded streets, windshields emblazoned with “Christ Is The Big Captain,” “Lamentations 3:26,” and “Sylvester Stallone.”

As we pondered Shaquille O’Neal’s thespian work,… More…