Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Publication date: September 3rd, 2019
by Inkyard Press
When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…
You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?
Actually, a lot.
Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I'm spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a "spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.
All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.
You know, typical drama. But it's nothing I can't handle.
-A copy was provided by Inkyard Press for review-
Here is the thing, I like this book but it’s simply too long. At 432 pages, it took me days to drudge through. On top of that, I feel like the book is trying so hard to tackle so many things at once that it fails to really examine any of the issues it presents us with in depth.
After a presentation that goes very wrong, Alaine is suspended. Her parents decide that maybe spending some time in Haiti will help Alaine redirect her energy so she is shipped off to live with her aunt and her mother – who is also licking her wounds. One of the conditions of her suspension involves her doing an internship at her Aunt’s major non-profit organization and so begins several months of Alaine connecting with her roots and learning about the country her parents left behind. Along with learning about her heritage and country, Alaine gets wrapped up in trying to undo the family curse and trying to accept her mom’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
First things first, this book is pitched as being written in an epistolary format which had me excited, but it honestly didn’t read particularly read that way?? It felt very much like first person narration with bits and pieces of texts and emails thrown in. For those that don’t really like the epistolary format, this might be a good thing and make you more likely to pick this book up.
I love Alaine’s voice though and I love her discovering and unpacking the long term consequences of colonialism and imperialism during her time in Haiti. There are so many important discussions to be had in this book and I highlighted so many passages. I love that Alaine is allowed to have moments of ignorance which are then corrected by loving elders around her. I love that Alaine is allowed to be genuinely upset by her mom’s diagnosis and does some pretty impulsive stuff as a result.
With the way the book was set up thought, I really expected and wanted more one-on-one time between Alaine and her mother and we never got that. Alaine was struggling with the diagnosis but we didn’t get to see the two deal with what it meant or how they’d repair their relationship in the little time they had left.
Alaine was also working in a very cool organization that I wish we’d gotten to see more of. Her time at the org was mostly shown as her flirting back and forth with the other intern and never really working on anything?? She makes one or two suggestions that are shot down and that was that. Given that interning at this org was one of the conditions of her suspension, it’s weird we didn’t see more of it.
Also, I am not entirely sure I even understood the family curse or the logistics behind breaking it?
On top of ALL of that, the book was pretty lengthy and there wasn’t much of a plot moving it forward. There were these strings of subplots that never really came together in a way that I felt was significant.
So, I think, maybe the issue wasn’t necessarily that the book was trying to do too many things because it still does some good stuff but, I think it needed to combine these issues in a more meaningful way and actually develop them more so that they could come together better. I’d still recommend this book to anyone looking for a cute summer contemporary read because there is a lot of fun to be had here! I just wish a couple things were done differently. Also everyone should read it and support it so we get even more Haitian #ownvoices down the road!