Reading List


By Partners in Health

The Agronomist
A film that profiles Jean Dominique, a Haitian radio journalist and human rights activist. It includes historical footage of Haiti’s vivid and tumultuous past; interviews with Dominique and Michele Montas (his heroic wife, life-long love, and extraordinary partner); and incorporates footage filmed before Dominique’s assassination in April, 2000.

Aristide and the Endless Revolution
A complex historical truth emerges in Nicolas Rossier’s film, revealing the untold story of the 2004 coup in Haiti, as well as the systemic violence and human rights violations that erupted under the interim government. Through exclusive interviews with Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Paul Farmer, Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega, Haiti de facto leader Gerard Latortue, Maxine Waters, Jeffrey Sachs, Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover, and many Haitian voices, the film explores the idea of the role of international interests in the tragic results leading up to and following the coup. The interviews also suggest that this was not the first nor the last time international interests have contributed to the historical poverty of Haiti.

Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
C.L.R. James

A classic and impassioned account of the first revolution in the Third World. Definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803, that became the model for Third World liberation movements from Africa to Cuba. It is simultaneously the story of the French colony of San Domingo, a place where the brutality of master toward slave was commonplace, and the story of a barely literate slave named Toussaint L’Ouverture, who led the black people of San Domingo in a successful struggle against successive invasions by colonizing powers, in the process helping form the first independent nation in the Caribbean.

Breath, Eyes, Memory
Krik? Krak!
The Dew Breaker
Edwidge Danticat

Danticat, an award-winning Haitian-American writer, evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.

Caribbean Contours
Sidney Mintz and Sally Price, eds.

Essays on the history, politics, economics, demographics and culture of the Caribbean to provide an authoritative introduction to this complex and geographically fragmented region.

Caribbean Transformations
Sidney Mintz

Author points out that the Caribbean region was the first overseas outpost of European imperialism and capitalism and its people have been “peculiarly disenfranchised” beneficiaries of centuries of Western capitalist solicitude. Arguments based on an unparalleled range of fieldwork and social and cultural reconstructions.

Damming the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment
Peter Hallward
For people interested in learning more about contemporary Haitian politics and U.S. policy, Peter Hallward’s new book is one of the best books of its kind. Paul Farmer calls it “an excellent book, the best study of its kind.”

From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969
Eric Williams

This arc of islands, separated by the languages and cultures of their colonizers, is joined by a common heritage and history: the story of sugar, which is inseparable from the history of slavery. A definitive work about a profoundly important but neglected and misrepresented area of the world.

In the Parish of the Poor: Writings from Haiti
Amy Wilentz (transl.)

“Haiti is the parish of the poor. In Haiti, it is not enough to heal wounds, for every day another wound opens up. It is not enough to give the poor food one day, to buy them antibiotics one day, to teach them to read a few sentences or to write a few words including their name…. The next day they will be starving again, feverish again, and they will never be able to buy the books that hold the words that might deliver them.” Essays, sermons, and speeches from the heart.

Life in a Haitian Valley
Melville Jean Herskovits

Groundbreaking anthropological account of Haiti as a tragic and revolutionary nation as experienced through the microcosm of the village Mireabalais.

Partner to the Poor: A Paul Farmer Reader
Paul Farmer

Partner to the Poor collects his writings from 1988 to 2009 on anthropology, epidemiology, health care for the global poor, and international public health policy, providing a broad overview of his work. (Also by Paul Farmer: The Uses of Haiti.)

The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier
Amy Wilentz
First person narrative of life in Haiti in the late 1980s, after Baby Doc Duvalier had fled and a military junta had seized power. Tells of the unrest and chaos that turned into mass strikes, riots, and other forms of violence among the Haitian peasantry and urban poor. Vivid and insightful picture of a country in turmoil, with exceptional descriptions of daily life.

Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History
Sidney Mintz

While not strictly about the Caribbean, a fascinating exploration of how we as a people have identified with and sought to consume sugar over the past 1000 years and how that has affected us. Sugar is a highly labor-intensive industry. This need for labor caused the British to look to Africa and other places, including in Haiti, to find cheap or free labor. With sugar came slavery, and those slaves who did the plantation work generally worked in the Caribbean while the product they created was delivered to British aristocracy.

Walking on Fire: Haitian Women’s Stories of Survival and Resistance
Beverly Bell
Narratives of women facing random arrests, sadistic torture, savage beatings and violent sexual abuse inflicted upon them by the state and by a sexist social structure. Historical and personal contexts for the narratives. A forum for indigenous women –mostly illiterate farmers, market women, labor organizer, a nurse, and others–to speak about their lives. United in their resistance to oppression. Inspiring resistance to the status quo. All are dedicated to the alleviation of poverty and believe that food, housing, and education are entitlements and that gender equity is inseparable from economic justice. Oral history.

When the Hands Are Many: Community Organization and Social Change in Rural Haiti
Jennie Marcelle Smith

Through their civil institutions and artistic expression, Haitian peasants, widely known as some of the world’s most impoverished, politically disempowered, and illiterate citizens, debate the meanings of development, democracy, and the public good. Illustrates the philosophies, styles, and structures typical of social organization in rural Haiti with narrative portraits of peasant organizations engaged in agricultural work parties, business meetings, religious ceremonies, social service projects, song sessions, and other activities.

Other Works to check out which are highly recommended by Juliet: 

The Neglected and Abused: A Physician’s Year in Haiti” by Joseph Bentivegna, M.D. – I read this after returning from our trip and it helped me make sense of all we saw.  This book is very well done and includes the history of haiti, tropical medicine, the culture and the complexities of working as a healthcare worker in the poorest nation of the Western Hemisphere.  It has helped me process many of the emotions I continue to feel post trip and make sense of the current situation there, how it came to be and why any change will not happen overnight.

Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracey Kidder.  A must read for going to or returning from  Haiti. This is a book about the life of Paul Farmer who created Partners in Health.  It is the story of how one person’s passion can have global influence.  He reminded me that it’s all about the individual encounter and doing the best you can in a given situation with what you have.  And sometimes all you have is YOU which is enough.

“The Butterflies Way:  Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States” by Edwidge Danticat. Review:  I read this before our trip and it helped me understand what it is like to be Haitian and living in the United States.  I’m rereading it after my trip and it is now taking on a different flavor.  The book is a collection of stories written by Haitian immigrants to the United States and contains some beautiful poetry which still holds true even in post earthquake Haiti.  Beyond the rubble and disease is a beautiful country with beautiful people that poverty cannot take away.

“Haitian Medical Anthropology” by Bryant Freeman, PhD –

“On that Day Everyone Ate” by Margaret Trost.

“Island Beneath the Sea:  A Novel” by Isabel Allende



  1. “The Uses of Haiti” by Paul Farmer, co- founder of Partners in Health, presents an excellent history of Haiti

  2. “Haiti: The Aftershocks of History” by Laurent DuBois, 2012. Professor DuBois is co-director if the Haiti Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke.

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