Title: Dear Haiti, Love Alain
Authors: Maika and Maritza Moulite
Publisher/Publish Date: Inkyard Press/September 3rd, 2019
Edition/Pages: Kindle/432 pages
Genre: YA contemporary, fiction, coming of age
Trigger warning: mental health, mention of sexual abuse
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.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is now one of my favorite reads of 2020. Written by sisters Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite, this is the first book I’ve read by a Haitian author and I absolutely loved it.
The writing flows so seamlessly that you can’t even tell that this book is written by two people. DHLA is not presented in your typical format. The story is told through a combination of journal entries, news articles, emails, letters, and blog entries. Not once does the flow of the story suffer; the plot is easy to follow and entertaining enough to keep a reader’s attention. I think Maika and Maritza did such an amazing job telling this story in the way they did.
The plot is very engaging. Alaine finds herself in trouble at school after a class presentation gone wrong. As a result, she gets sent to Haiti as a punishment. Yes, being threatened with getting sent to Haiti is a normal thing in Haitian households. But 99.999% of the time, it’s an empty threat. Alaine, sadly, experienced that 0.001%. In all honesty, it’s less of a punishment and more of a volunteer project with her Aunt Estelle’s company. While she’s in Haiti, she learns more about her family’s and Haiti’s history. She also learns more about a “curse” that has supposedly plagued her family for generations. Along with the family drama, a speck of romance, and the supernatural, DHLA is far from boring.
The characters were likable and felt real. I love Alaine as the main character. She was spunky, funny, and head-strong. You could tell that she loved her family and would do anything for them. I liked her relationship with her dad, Jules. They were close in an endearing way. Her relationship with her mother Celeste was quite the opposite. Her mother was a workaholic and didn’t make much time for her. But the trip to Haiti changed that. I enjoyed witnessing how their bond grew stronger as the story went on.
I loved the representation of Haiti and its culture! I learned a lot about the history of my heritage. The author duo explained a lot about the history of Haiti and the major players that had a hand in making the country the first black-led republic; even adding their own version of the past to fit the plot, which I found intriguing. I was fascinated by the addition of the family curse and the sprinkle of Haitian voodoo (a religion practiced in parts of the Caribbean characterized by sorcery and spirit possession). I was raised to believe that voodoo was the work of the devil, so I never learned much about it; just told to stay away from it and anyone who dealt with it. I wasn’t sure what to expect when reading about it. But I thought it added an essence of the supernatural into the story.
I also loved the portrayal of successful black women. Alaine’s mother, Celeste, is a renowned journalist with her own political cable TV show. Her aunt Estelle is the creator of a successful app that helps underprivileged children in Haiti find sponsors and she is the minister of tourism for Haiti. Both women are independent and fierce; choice role models. I also loved that Haiti was not depicted as the poor and desolate country that it is often described as. The one time I went to Haiti, and that was pre-earthquake, I remember a beautiful country with tall mountains that reached the clouds and clear blue waters where the day’s catch was cooked and served within the hour. Sure, there are poor cities and slums, as with every other country, but it’s not the only thing that defines Haiti. The Moulite sisters made sure to make that known to readers.
THIS BOOK WAS SO RELATABLE! There were so many nuggets that I could directly associate with. The hours-long weddings with Celine Dion playing as the wedding party did a two-step down the aisle (because simply walking down the aisle just won’t cut it at a Haitian wedding and Celine Dion songs are a staple to all marriage ceremonies). I could taste all the food that was being described, the fried plantains, griot (fried pork chunks), macaroni au gratin (baked macaroni and cheese with ground meat), and rum cake. And let’s not forget about having to greet EACH AND EVERY elder when entering a room. It’s tedious, but like Alaine’s best friend Tatiana said, after years of doing it, you end up finding a way to be as efficient as possible. Everything was perfect as described.
If there was one thing that could have made this book a five star read for me, it was the ending. I felt like there were strings left unraveled. I wanted certain things to come full circle. I wanted to know if certain relationships were salvaged and if others grew stronger. There was one thing that happened to Alaine that was glossed over. It was a major event that was brushed aside, never to be mentioned again. In the end, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened.
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was a great read. It was fun, with good characters and better writing. It’s so hard finding a book that represents you 100%. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine was that book for me and I’m grateful to have found it. I can’t wait to see what the Moulite sisters have in store for us with their next book, One of the Good Ones, out early 2021.
RATING: 4.5 STARS