From Publishers Weekly
Aristide, the former priest-turned-president of one of the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere, calls these nine brief chapters a letter written for "my brothers and sisters in Haiti who cannot write"Aan attempt to explain to readers that the world's richest countries are "accumulating wealth with breathtaking speed and never looking back," while the poor nations are "sinking deeper into economic misery." He views every topic he addressesAglobalization, colonialism, education, women's statusAthrough the stark lens of the poorest Haitians. Although his hope-filled vision can offer them nothing more than "poverty with dignity," he believes it may at least prevent starvation. Aristide's writing is simple and direct; he capably juggles heartrending anecdotes, unnerving statistics, unflinching commentary and the occasional Bible quote. The result reads at times like a hard-hitting sermon and at times like a campaign speech, resonating with the conviction of one who knows firsthand the desperation about which he writes. Passion overcomes stridency as Aristide insists that "women, children and the poor must be the subjects, not the objects, of history. They must sit at the decision-making tables and fill the halls of power." This courageous critique of the global economy and how it is leaving the poor behind is important and accessible, sure to touch all but the hardest of hearts. Photos. (Apr.)
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Aristide's 1994 restoration as Haiti's president (he had been ousted by a 1991 military coup) was hailed as a victory for third-world democracy. The former Catholic priest subsequently incensed first-world interests, however, by resisting their economic advice. Earlier free-market schemes only impoverished and even starved Haiti's huge peasantry, and Aristide pegged future cooperation with economic globalization to guarantees for free public education, national health care, and secure nonservice employment. Reviled as a Marxist, Aristide proves merely a Christian in this inspiring little book: he cares more for the poor than for free-traders' profits. No longer president, he has little hope that his policies will be realized soon; instead, he encourages self-supporting development for Haiti's poor, based upon religious faith and a much more egalitarian democracy that would include even children's and especially women's participation. His goal is the re-establishment of "decent poverty," which was, not so coincidentally, exactly what social critic Paul Goodman saw being rubbed out in the U.S. after World War II. Ray Olson