The titular Alaine, a first generation Haitian-American living in Miami, had never been to the homeland before being extra at school one too many times nearly got her expelled and packed off to stay with family in Cap Haitïen and intern at her Tati Estelle's nonprofit, PATRON PAL. Alaine Beauparlant is a raucous kid to begin with, but living with her doctor dad and playing second fiddle (or maybe third or fourth) to her mom's high profile journalist career may cause Alaine to act out more than is strictly necessary. That's my interpretation, anyway. When a bad thing happens to her mom, Alaine gets to spend more time with the famous Celeste Beauparlant. Secrets are revealed and mistakes are made. There's a romance that is mostly on the side, and that I could have done without, but I guess that's what makes YA YA.
I love that the book was written by sisters, one who majored in marketing and earned an MBA and the other, who was a women's studies major and has a master's in journalism. I'm curious about their writing process! And also about the fact that the MBA holder is the one with a bald head.
Alaine's naughty behavior at school, including a tongue-in-cheek telling of the Haitian Revolution reminds me of a snarky response to a chemistry test I was convinced I should use as my college application essay. Ah, privileged, know-it-all youth.
Alaine comes by her snarky communications generationally. He's an excerpt from her mother's high school diary
When I was young enough to still love [my father, Haiti's Minister of Communication], I'd watch as he would lean back in his chair and spin food shortages and riots into "slight agricultural setbacks" and "passionate gatherings." No one in the country believed a word that came out of his office, but he kept the press releases coming, convinced that his time to lead would come soon.
Alaine wants to be a journalist like her mother. Minister of Communications might seem like the opposite of journalism, but it's still writing.
Celeste takes apart a pundit's weirdo claim about the 2010 earthquake being somehow the result of voodoo, "So the countries behind hideous atrocities like colonizing occupied lands and raping and murdering their inhabitants and enslaving millions of people...what has been their retribution?" But that doesn't mean Dear Haiti is without vodou, that is painfully retributive.
Alaine (and the Moulite sisters) share some fun (the opposite of fun) facts about Haitian tourism, which Alaine's aunt Estelle is minister of: Haiti earns just $9 per cruise ship visitor to Labadie, its luxury beach, where tourists come to enjoy the white sand, and do not venture beyond the artificial environment created for them. The real Haiti is a more honest place, as Alaine notes about an exchange between her father Jules, and his childhood friend.
"Well if it isn't Ti Blanc!" he said, referring to my dad as a "white man" the way Haitians routinely did expats or their children.
"Daniel. You have a beautiful family. How are you?" they clapped each other forcefully on the back."
"Not bad. Hungry--but what's new?" I always found it fascinating that Haitians were more likely to tell you the truth about their conditions. No "I'm fine" here, not when the children were so plainly thin."
Despite being about "the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere," as Haiti is repeatedly referred to, to the Beauparlant women's annoyance, Dear Haiti does lightness as well as handles its heavier material.