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VOICES OF HAITI by Lisa Armstrong Kirkus Star


by Lisa Armstrong ; Kwame Dawes ; photographed by Andre Lamberton ; developed by Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Pub Date: July 21st, 2012
Publisher: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

A bracing multimedia portrait of life in Haiti following the devastating earthquake there in 2010.

The two lead authors of this well-reported, enhanced e-book bring divergent but equally valuable sensibilities. Armstrong, an experienced journalist, reports on the everyday lives of survivors of the quake, visiting with residents of a camp on a former airport runway and doctors grappling with HIV/AIDS. (One major consequence of the quake was the disruption of access to anti-viral drugs.) In contrast to Armstrong’s more straightforward style, poet Dawes more indirectly evokes the despair and occasional shards of hope that characterize life there. Each chapter opens with a brief poem by Dawes, generally mournful (“Oh, the mothers of mothers / who know too well the hottest / sorrow”), and he also contributes a number of profiles with doctors, ministers and sex workers, written in a personable, observational style. The e-book is studded with excellent photography; some of it captures the sprawl of the tent cities that rose up following the quake, but most present intimate portraits of residents going about their daily lives. Girls in colorful dresses walk through rubble, and boys smile from a van whose windshield is pockmarked by bullets; the general message is that Haitians are moving on, while Haiti’s infrastructure is agonizingly stalled. It also features brief but illuminating videos relating to the profile subjects and the poems, backed by unobtrusive, somber jazz. The sole downside is that all this rich design, photography and video makes for a bulky package: At 1.86 gigs, it may require iPad owners to clear out some space. But it is a valuable feat of reportage, free of plodding historical background or easy bromides about the indomitability of the spirit. Well-made as this e-book is, it never underplays the suffering it reveals.

A model of long-form feature journalism for the iPad.