Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance

Cornell University Press
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Haiti, long noted for poverty and repression, has a powerful and too-often-overlooked history of resistance. Women in Haiti have played a large role in changing the balance of political and social power, even as they have endured rampant and devastating state-sponsored violence, including torture, rape, abuse, illegal arrest, disappearance, and assassination.

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.

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About the author

Beverly Bell is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and runs the economic and social justice group Other Worlds. Winner of the Outstanding Journalism Award from Women's International Center and the PEN–New Mexico Award for Social Justice in Literature, she is the author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance and Fault Lines: Views across Haiti's Divide, both from Cornell.

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Reviews

4.5
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Additional Information

Publisher
Cornell University Press
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Published on
Jul 24, 2013
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Pages
272
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ISBN
9780801469855
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Caribbean & West Indies / General
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Women's Studies
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Beverly Bell
Beverly Bell, an activist and award-winning writer, has dedicated her life to working for democracy, women's rights, and economic justice in Haiti and elsewhere. Since the 7.0 magnitude earthquake of January 12, 2010, that struck the island nation, killing more than a quarter-million people and leaving another two million Haitians homeless, Bell has spent much of her time in Haiti. Her new book, Fault Lines, is a searing account of the first year after the earthquake. Bell explores how strong communities and an age-old gift culture have helped Haitians survive in the wake of an unimaginable disaster, one that only compounded the preexisting social and economic distress of their society. The book examines the history that caused such astronomical destruction. It also draws in theories of resistance and social movements to scrutinize grassroots organizing for a more just and equitable country.

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.

Leslie M. Harris
"The black experience in the antebellum South has been thoroughly documented. But histories set in the North are few. In the Shadow of Slavery, then, is a big and ambitious book, one in which insights about race and class in New York City abound. Leslie Harris has masterfully brought more than two centuries of African American history back to life in this illuminating new work."—David Roediger, author of The Wages of Whiteness

In 1991 in lower Manhattan, a team of construction workers made an astonishing discovery. Just two blocks from City Hall, under twenty feet of asphalt, concrete, and rubble, lay the remains of an eighteenth-century "Negro Burial Ground." Closed in 1790 and covered over by roads and buildings throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the site turned out to be the largest such find in North America, containing the remains of as many as 20,000 African Americans. The graves revealed to New Yorkers and the nation an aspect of American history long hidden: the vast number of enslaved blacks who labored to create our nation's largest city.

In the Shadow of Slavery lays bare this history of African Americans in New York City, starting with the arrival of the first slaves in 1626, moving through the turbulent years before emancipation in 1827, and culminating in one of the most terrifying displays of racism in U.S. history, the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. Drawing on extensive travel accounts, autobiographies, newspapers, literature, and organizational records, Leslie M. Harris extends beyond prior studies of racial discrimination by tracing the undeniable impact of African Americans on class, politics, and community formation and by offering vivid portraits of the lives and aspirations of countless black New Yorkers.

Written with clarity and grace, In the Shadow of Slavery is an ambitious new work that will prove indispensable to historians of the African American experience, as well as anyone interested in the history of New York City.
Edwidge Danticat
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