book review

Ayiti

For Haitian Flag Day, I decided to read Roxane Gay’s collection of short stories entitled Ayiti which is the Kreyol translation for: Haiti. In all honesty, there’s probably no one else that I would want to read a collection of short stories regarding Haiti and its culture than from a fellow Haitian-American writer such Roxane Gay. I found the collection to be captivating, concise and culturally relevant on all fronts.

In the chapter, About My Father’s Accent, it gave me a warm feeling of home. Having parents who were born and raised in Haiti, I grew up hearing their accents so I could hear the pronunciations of words that Gay perfectly described in the text as clear as day. It made me laugh in a child-like way while also reminding me of the pain I felt in my childhood when kids would tease me for their accents, specifically my father’s. In my mind, teasing my dad was from a loving place and anyone else doing it was unacceptable.

Another story, I enjoyed was There’s no E in Zombi which speaks to Haitian culture involving Voodoo. I’m glad this was included because one of the first things that comes into someone’s mind, for some reason, when I say that I’m Haitian is voodoo. Gay hilariously attempts to explain the proper pronunciation of the word and what letters require emphasis. The love story component was my favorite, however, because it resembled Haitian folklore, stories and cautionary tales that are passed through generations. A girl falls in love, he does not love her in return so she has no choice but to turn the love of her life into a zombi (that’s right – no e!)

I don’t want to continue to spoil the collection of short stories for you but I am honestly so glad this was the first work of Roxane Gay that I have read so far. She is a phenomenal writer and I feel as though she did Haiti the justice in its depiction that has been lacking in other stories. It’s concise and incredibly enlightening for those who want a glimpse into Haitian culture for what it truly is and not what the media has portrayed it to be. If you are a fan of Roxane Gay’s work, if you are Haitian, or if you’re just looking for a good, bite-sized read definitely go check out Ayiti by Roxane Gay.

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Books

You Are Having A Good Time

I have just concluded reading a series of short stories by Amie Barrodale entitled, “You Are Having a Good Time.” The title instantly struck me and I was eager to read a collection of stories for the first time that was not assigned by a college professor. I had stumbled upon the book on Amazon as I added books to my wishlist and figured it would be an entertaining read. I was truly disappointed. So far, this is my first negative review of a book that I’ve read so I want to make sure I am thorough.

The short stories are all well-written and are certainly catered for a particular type of audience and I am not a part of that audience. The first short story, William Wei was interesting, it was a perfect introduction to the series. It was bold and immediately made you aware of what was to be expected going forward – blatant honesty. Sexuality and drugs were introduced casually as something that Barrodale would not shy away from in order to develop three dimensional characters in her story. My only problem was that a lot of those descriptions did not seem to convey any lasting message. So what? William Wei was a bit of a loner until a girl who moonlights as a fashion model on a website and happens to be a self-sabotaging drug addict calls him nightly but fears meeting him because he may not find her attractive. The story concludes with him rolling on acid and realizing that she finds him unattractive and that she may have been lying about everything. I liked the closing paragraph but the rest of the story did not seem as profound as the closing paragraph.

Some of the other stories had various themes that I enjoyed such as “The Imp” where someone’s negative feelings are personified in this magical realism kind of way. Although written matter-of-factly, it seemed profound in the way that emotions can take over us – especially the ugly ones to the point that we wish we could blame some kind of outside force or “imp” for manifesting those feelings. The rest of the stories did not necessarily make me reflect on anything at all. They often left me confused as to what exactly I had read and what I should take away from it. There were interesting aspects of each such as the closing paragraphs of “The Commission” and lasting impression of the closing short story, “Rinpoche” but overall, I would not recommend this to anyone. It was at times extremely difficult to keep up with the plot lines and descriptions of each short story and the narrative voice did not seem to change when it went from one short story to another. I know that Barrodale has received rave reviews and awards but I do not know if I necessarily have a taste for her writing style.

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