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Because We Are (A Libète Limyè Mystery) Kindle Edition

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Length: 482 pages Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

While a law student, Ted Oswald lived in Port-au-Prince and worked in Cité Soleil, where he became deeply invested in the community and met the feisty young girl who served as the inspiration for his character Libète. He currently works as a public interest lawyer in Philadelphia, where he lives with his wife, Katharine. Because We Are: A Novel of Haiti is his first novel.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2792 KB
  • Print Length: 482 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (July 22, 2014)
  • Publication Date: July 22, 2014
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,440 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Portions of the following interview with Ted Oswald were conducted by Tim Hoiland and David Gaughran, originally appearing on and, respectively.

Interviewer: Tell us about the background of Because We Are.

Ted Oswald: In late 2010, my wife and I lived in Haiti and interned, her as an international development student and me as a law student. The story is set in the community in which I worked, a notorious slum called Cité Soleil. It follows two unlikely detectives--children, brash Libète and brilliant Jak, both amalgams of different kids I encountered there--as they try to solve the mystery behind a murdered mother and her infant child. But the story was always meant to be about bigger themes than that premise suggests: friendship, the struggle for justice in the face of impunity, sacrifice for the community, personal responsibility, faith and doubt in light of tragedy, and the foolishness of scarcity in a world of plenty.

Interviewer: You've made the decision that all of your royalties from book sales go to support the work of a handful of small organizations in Haiti. Why did you choose to take this approach, and how did you choose which organizations to

Ted Oswald: Much of the book was inspired by my experiences in Haiti, especially in Cité Soleil, and it somehow felt strange to profit financially from it. This model seemed a way to gather the indirect support of others―through the purchase of the book-―to a country and people that changed my life.

Many are familiar with Haiti's travails in passing. The legacy of slavery, rapacious leaders, political instability, endemic poverty and inequality, and natural and man-made disasters make for an incredibly complicated context.

The organizations who have and will continue to benefit from book sales have long-standing commitments to partnering with Haitians; they have great reputations and proven track records in their different areas of work, be they human rights advocacy and promotion, education, microfinance, conflict resolution, or improving the environment.

Ultimately, I admire examples of generosity spurring generosity, and this seemed an interesting way to tie readers into the book's special context and themes.

To read more of this interview, visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 7, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a powerful, heart-stirring, fascinating novel that takes the reader into the heart of Haiti's political, social, and cultural climate. It reads as if written by an insider with a deep understanding of Haiti's poor. The novel follows the story of two children navigating the complexities of life in a Haitian slum. It's part murder-mystery, part adventure, part character drama, part social commentary. It as at the same time heart-wrenching and hopeful, full of both suffering and redemption. I didn't want to put the book down because I was so drawn deeply into the story, the emotion, the well-developed characters, and the local color through the author's vivid imagery and the unique chronology through which the story was told.

Because We Are is not only a well-written and engaging novel, it's an important novel as well. Without being preachy in the least, Oswald invites the reader to grapple with important questions, including:

- the often misguided approaches of humanitarian aid efforts
- the humanity and dignity of the poor
- learned helplessness vs. self-empowerment of the poor
- systemic injustices that trap people in a cycle of poverty
- questioning the goodness of God when faced with the reality of suffering and injustice

There are no easy answers given; instead the reader is left to struggle, along with the characters, how to respond to these big questions. As a result, the novel is the perfect read for a book group. I was inspired and entertained by a fast-paced, gripping narrative, and even as I was reading I really wanted to sit down and have a deep conversation about the implications of the book and how we might respond personally.

It's also inspiring to know that simply buy buying this book, all of the proceeds go to organizations which are doing real and good work on the ground in Haiti.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Sheble-Hall on January 26, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As someone who has been to Haiti often, I can say that this novel read true to my experiences there in the past 10 years and especially since the earthquake. I read the book while I was volunteering in Haiti this past week, and it was the perfect companion at the end of a long day. Had the details of the setting or the character development been culturally inaccurate it would have not felt so natural and believable to me. This is an excellently written book and captures the culture and spirit of Haiti and it's vibrant people. A wonderful alternative to non-fictional accounts of disaster relief and failed policy. I highly recommend!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By David Gaughran on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is remarkable achievement by Ted Oswald. I can't remember how I first stumbled across it, but I'm sure the world will be hearing a lot more about him, especially if he keeps producing work of this quality. His prose has a real musical quality, its own distinct rhythm. The story is captivating and the characters leap off the page and stay with you long after the book is done. Poverty-stricken Haiti is perfectly realized, but never sanitized, and I really felt like I was given a genuine picture of what life is like for people like Libete and Jak.

There's a point in this book where I wasn't sure if I could continue. The story was so heartbreaking, and poor young Libete had gone through so many trials and hardships, that I didn't know if I could take it anymore. But the author knows exactly when to offer a glimmer of hope, just enough for the reader (and Libete) to soldier on to the end.

That might make the book sound depressing, but it's not at all. Ted Oswald has a lightness to his touch, which never trivializes the subject matter, but injects humor and beauty and hope into heart-rending situations. Even though the characters often experience the most extreme difficulties, they never lose their over-arching humanity.

This is a glorious book. A real treasure. Read it!
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Ruth Buchanan on March 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
Grim and gripping and sad, Because We Are is a work of social consciousness that cuts deep. At first, the parallels to Flavia de Luce seemed to leap to the fore: a plucky young heroine attempts to solve murders and puts herself into ridiculously dangerous situations while doing so, all in defiance of police orders to keep out of things. There's even an Inspector Hewlett arch-typical figure, although this Dimanche is cut from sterner stuff, as one would expect of a Haitian police officer attempting to preside over the snarling mess that is Cité Soleil. But the longer I read, the more those parallels seemed to recede. While the Flavia de Luce novels entertain, this novel attempts to educate. While this is not necessarily heavy-handed or distracting from the story, it is certainly overt.

According the the blurb, Oswald worked on this novel while living in Haiti, and it shows. In every line is etched the stark reality of life in such a place. The characters are true to the culture, their voices and reactions pitch-perfect. Although the children are very occasionally too wise for their years, readers will find themselves so gripped with the story that they are willing to forgive this minor issue.

When it comes to the way in which the story's timeline was unveiled, I'm a bit less forgiving. Although I think I understand why Oswald chose to tell the story in such a fragmented way, I will confess that I found the constant effort to keep track of the timeline to be hard going.

Recommended especially for those who have spent any amount of time in Haiti. Although the country's woes are rife with human drama, there really aren't many English novels set there. (Though not recommended for bleeding hearts, sensitive souls, or anyone who finds language, violence, and frank descriptions of the seamy underbelly of an inner-city slum to be off-putting.)
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