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Haiti: The Aftershocks of History Hardcover – January 3, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Well-written, authoritative history… enriched by careful attention to what Haitian intellectuals have had to say about their country over the last two centuries.” ―The New York Times Book Review

“A sweeping, passionate history of Haiti... Smart, honest, and utterly compelling, this book is the national biography this country and its people deserve.” ―Boston Globe

“A book as welcome as it is timely: a lucid one-volume history of the nation, from Toussaint to the present, anchored in scholarship but rendered as a comprehensive-but-swift narrative for the general reader.” ―The Nation

“This excellent, engaging history seeks to strip away centuries of mocking and reductive bias. Dubois's Haiti is a land of ceaseless activity, a ferment of suppression and insurrection exacerbated by the mercenary intrusions of foreign powers--in the past century, chiefly the United States. Dubois also traces a parallel history of bold social experiments on the part of everyday Haitians… Throughout, he makes clear how economic pressures and political crises have left even the county's better leaders hamstrung, without downplaying their failures in fulfilling Haiti's great promise.” ―The New Yorker

“An admirable chronicle… Reading Haiti: The Aftershocks of History, I was repeatedly struck by the deep and detailed explanations of things that had never quite made sense to me about Haiti. Those ‘aha' moments were some of the most satisfying passages in this engrossing and deeply-researched book.” ―The Miami Herald

“A vigorous, knowledgeable and empathetic account... A pleasure to add to my collection of writings about Haiti.” ―San Francisco Chronicle

“Fascinating… For anyone with even a little interest in Haiti, this book is an essential read.” ―Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Very few times have I been able to say that I learned something new about a subject with which I am ostensibly familiar. But this is the case on virtually every page of Laurent Dubois's Haiti: The Aftershocks of History. Dubois, the veritable dean of Haitian studies, has produced that rarest of things: a highly entertaining narrative for the general reader, but one deeply satisfying to the scholar as well. This brilliant book, a compelling and colorful saga of the triumph and tragedy of Haitian revolution and freedom, should be required reading for anyone who wonders from whence the ‘curse on Haiti' really emanated.” ―Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

“Laurent Dubois is an impeccable scholar and a master storyteller. Haiti: The Aftershocks of History is the new standard work in English on the astounding panorama of Haitian history, from the seismic events of its founding to the earthquake of 2010.” ―Madison Smartt Bell, author of All Souls' Rising

“Haiti’s history is tragic and noble, worth knowing for its own sake and essential to the country’s future. This book is an admirable synthesis of that history―sensible, comprehensive, and gracefully written.” ―Tracy Kidder, author of Mountains Beyond Mountains

“A masterpiece… For those who, perusing the headlines, sometimes find themselves moved to ask the perennial question ‘Why is Haiti like that?,' Laurent Dubois provides a brilliant and perceptive riposte. Wielding sharp, unsettling anecdotes and a flowing prose style, Dubois plumbs Haiti's rich and singular history--with its unlikely heroes and persuasive demons, its exploiters and its misérables, its compromisers and its intransigents--to teach us important and subtle lessons in revolution, occupation, and liberation. These lessons go well beyond the concerns of Haitianists to encompass the great surge of human history, which may well be bearing us, today, toward another similar age of revolution and upheaval.” ―Amy Wilentz, author of The Rainy Season

About the Author

Laurent Dubois is the author of Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2004. The Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University, Dubois has written on Haiti for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and the New Yorker Web site, among other publications, and is the codirector of the Haiti Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1St Edition edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805093354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805093353
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laurent Dubois, a specialist in the history and culture of France and the Caribbean, is Marcello Lotti Professor of Romance Studies and History at Duke University and Director of the Center for French and Francophone Studies as well as co-director, with Deborah Jenson, of the Haiti laboratory of the Franklin Humanities Institute. He is the author of Avengers of the New World (Harvard University Press, 2004) and A Colony of Citizens: Revolution and Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004), which won four book prizes, including the Frederick Douglass Prize. His most recent book is Soccer Empire: The World Cup and the Future of France (University of California Press, 2010). He has also published two collections: Origins of the Black Atlantic, edited with Julius Scott (Routledge Press, 2009) and Slave Revolution in the Caribbean, 1789-1804: A History in Documents, edited with John Garrigus (Bedford Press, 2006). His most recent book is Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Metropolitan Books, 2012), which was reviewed on the front page of the New York Times Book Review as well as in the Miami Herald, the Boston Globe, and the New Yorker. He is currently writing a history of the banjo (under contract with Harvard University Press), for which he received a National Humanities Center Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. With Richard Turits, he is also currently working a history of the Caribbean. He was the head historical consultant for the recent PBS documentary on the Haitian Revolution, Egalité for All, and the co-chair of the scholars committee for a New York Historical Society exhibition entitled Revolutions, which will open in November 2011. He recently received a Mellon New Directions Fellowship to study Ethnomusicology.

For more information visit http://duboisl2.wordpress.com/

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having lived and worked in Haiti over a period of 40 years I approach any book and article about the country with great apprehension. So much of what is written is simplistic and judgmental, buying into one or another side of deeply polarizing issues, events, and personalities. This book beautifully conveys Haiti's complexity and puts it in historical context. For non Haitians who love Haiti as I do or for those who want to understand what lies beneath the country they know about only through the media, this is an excellent source of information. Thank you Laurent Dubois.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book based on the NYT review, from which I gathered that if one were to read a book on Haiti, this was it. It turns out that would only be true if we were living in 1963.

Dubois covers the Haitian Revolution and early Haitian history with a great deal of detail, discussing people and events that, if not well known, make for interesting reading. If Haiti until Duvalier is your interest, this is the book for you. However, everything from the rise of Papa Doc to the present day is crammed into the final chapter and the epilogue. I don't mean to suggest that the most important part of Haiti's history has happened during this period (and perhaps this is the point Dubois is trying to make), but given the intricate discussions of the many leaders, coups, and rebels of the 19th century, the light touch on the modern era is terribly disappointing. For example, the entire coverage of the second fall of Aristide is as follows: "But the bicentennial instead became the occasion for an uprising: in February 2004, a small group of former military officers took up arms against Aristide, approaching Port-au-Prince from the north. The U.S. government made it clear that it would not intervene to support him, and at the end of the month, Aristide left the country in circumstances that remain the subject of tremendous controversy. He was escorted by U.S. troops and officials, who claimed they were simply helding him to flee to safety; Aristide himself, however, described the event as a kidnapping." That's it. Mayby knowing that there was a controversy is enough, but I would prefer a little more discussion of it and the people involved with it. The 1991 coup is similarly dealt with in a sentence or two.
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Format: Hardcover
I love Haiti and I am fascinated by its history. This book fills a much-needed gap - the history of Haiti from the revolution to the present. Presented here is a detailed and highly-readable account of events that many people may have heard about but never really read in detail. For example, many people know of the Duvalier regime, but much less famous are the leaders who came before them - knowing only that the government was "unstable." Dubois also makes a convincing argument against the US occupation - showing it as a time of humiliation and tyranny.

On the negative side however, this book is anything but impartial. Dubois clearly loves Haiti so he engages in sometimes unconvincing mental gymnastics to defend Haiti and blame all its troubles on outsiders - usually the US. The review in the New York times put it best: "Seldom, however, can outsiders be blamed for all a country's troubles". For example, Dubois is perfectly happy to quote Faustin Wirkus when he is critical of the US, but disbelieves his story that the inhabitants of Ile de la Gonave made him king.

I also take exception to his depiction of NGOs after the quake - about that, he is just plain wrong. I've been to Port-au-Prince with one of those organizations and they - along with the US military and UN peacekeeping forces - are doing indispensable work down there. If Dubois sees them as yet another infringement of Haitian sovereignty than I and the Haitians I have met (in direct contradiction to his book) must disagree. If there were no NGOs in Haiti (including Sean Penn and his organization) than the effects of the earthquake would be incalculably worse. The unintentional conclusion that Dubois seems to be asking his readers to draw is that no one should interfere with Haiti in any way - don't go there, don't send money, don't do anything. I know he doesn't want that, and if that were to occur, then thousands more would be dying of hunger, disease, exposure, and violence.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It would be one of the greatest acts of moral vandalism in history. A man who had defeated the Ancien Regime in the service of the French Republic and held a territory in its name would die of betrayal by the new regime in a mountain fortress. In real terms he had betrayed the state, as he was governing in the interests of the people. Rare as that is in a statesman.

I saw the picture of that man in a resplendent uniform with coal black face on a library bookshelf as a boy. It was the cover art that fascinated me and led me to the reading of Toussaint Louverture's biography. The book was part of a series meant for young students. It was the compelling story of a slave who started a nation. That nation's history has always been as compelling. Some would call it tragic or even comic, but there have been instances of triumph and glory.

Laurent Dubois has retold the story in his book, Haiti The Aftershocks of History. There are more romantic books on Haiti. The Serpent and the Rainbow comes to mind with its alternative pharmacology and rural societal persistence. Kenneth Roberts' novel, Lydia Bailey, has an account of the battle of Crête-à-Pierrot that is as inspiring as his description of General Dessalines is menacing. Even Black Bagdad, by the occupying Marine officer, John H. Craige, is a romance of sorts. Of course, a book with the title, Best Nightmare on Earth can only be about a place of chaos and fun.

Yet such books are each only a small part of the story. All too many of my fellow citizens only know of Haiti as the place where the earthquake took place. One would suspect that fewer than one in a thousand realize that the country is our oldest sister republic in the new world. The great value in Mr.
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