In Walking on Fire, Beverly Bell, an activist and an expert on Haitian social movements, brings together thirty-eight oral histories from a diverse group of Haitian women. The interviewees include, for example, a former prime minister, an illiterate poet, a leading feminist theologian, and a vodou dancer. Defying victim status despite gender- and state-based repression, they tell how Haiti's poor and dispossessed women have fought for their personal and collective survival.
The women's powerfully moving accounts of horror and heroism can best be characterized by the Creole word istwa, which means both "story" and "history." They combine theory with case studies concerning resistance, gender, and alternative models of power. Photographs of the women who have lived through Haiti's recent past accompany their words to further personalize the interviews in Walking on Fire.
Fault Lines offers rich perspectives rarely seen outside Haiti. Readers accompany the author through displaced persons camps, shantytowns, and rural villages, where they get a view that defies the stereotype of Haiti as a lost nation of victims. Street journals impart the author's intimate knowledge of the country, which spans thirty-five years. Fault Lines also combines excerpts of more than one hundred interviews with Haitians, historical and political analysis, and investigative journalism. Fault Lines includes twelve photos from the year following the 2010 earthquake. Bell also investigates and critiques U.S. foreign policy, emergency aid, standard development approaches, the role of nongovernmental organizations, and disaster capitalism. Woven through the text are comparisons to the crisis and cultural resistance in Bell's home city of New Orleans, when the levees broke in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Ultimately a tale of hope, Fault Lines will give readers a new understanding of daily life, structural challenges, and collective dreams in one of the world's most complex countries.