Sunday, July 14, 2013

In Darkness by Nick Lake

This is a fictionalized account of Haiti's history as told through the thoughts of Shorty.  He is a boy who was buried in a cave of rubble and dead bodies after the catastrophic earthquake of 2010.  There was actually a boy pulled alive from the wreckage after 8 days, after rescue workers no longer expected to find anyone living. The real boy was badly dehydrated but otherwise mostly ok. 
The fictional boy is a gun toting, murdering drug gang member. While in his dark cave, he sings songs he can remember words for.  He thinks about his recent experiences in the gang, when his father was hacked to death and his sister stolen.  He remembers revolutionist Dread Wilme's voudou funeral.  He remembers making mud cakes to tide himself and his mother over til real food can be gotten.  He remembers the poverty, violence, chaos.  When he drifts off to sleep he dreams of Toussaint L'Ouverture an early revolutionary leader who tried to stabilize his people and government after the French pulled out, freed the slaves and the British tried to take over. 
In the early 1700's and in the 1600's Haiti was a thriving trade center.  One of its export/imports was,  unfortunately,  slaves.  The country became unstable, violent, and impoverished when the French pulled out and a new strong government failed to be formed and it remains so today. 
The darkness in the title has multiple meanings as readers will discover.  This is a hard novel to read.  There is a lot of violence.  And, there is much difficult to understand language from French, from Kreyole (creole or Haitian dialect), from blanc (a blend of English and gang language and swearing), from voudou and African language.  I did not understand all of it and most readers will not, though perhaps unfamiliar words could be found on the Internet.  This is a Prinz Award winner which is the top honor for Young Adult Literature.  It could easily be an adult crossover book.  Anyone wanting to become more familiar with Haiti and its history could learn from this title.  But, most teens are unlikely to get through story. JDW 7/14/13

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