Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance

Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance


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Haiti, long noted for poverty and repression, has a powerful and too-often-overlooked history of resistance. Women in Haiti have played a large role in changing the balance of political and social power, even as they have endured rampant and devastating state-sponsored violence, including torture, rape, abuse, illegal arrest, disappearance, and assassination.

Beverly Bell, an activist and an expert on Haitian social movements, brings together thirty-eight oral histories from a diverse group of Haitian women. The interviewees include, for example, a former prime minister, an illiterate poet, a leading feminist theologian, and a vodou dancer. Defying victim status despite gender- and state-based repression, they tell how Haiti's poor and dispossessed women have fought for their personal and collective survival.

The women's powerfully moving accounts of horror and heroism can best be characterized by the Creole word istwa, which means both "story" and "history." They combine theory with case studies concerning resistance, gender, and alternative models of power. Photographs of the women who have lived through Haiti's recent past accompany their words to further personalize the interviews in Walking on Fire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801487484
Publisher: Cornell University Press
Publication date: 12/13/2001
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 772,634
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Beverly Bell is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and runs the economic and social justice group Other Worlds. Winner of the Outstanding Journalism Award from Women’s International Center and the PEN–New Mexico Award for Social Justice in Literature, she is the author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance, also from Cornell.

Edwidge Danticat is the renowned author of several bestselling books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory; Brother, I’m Dying and Krik? Krak!

Table of Contents

Foreword, by Edwidge Danticat
Preface: Beat Back the Darkness
Introduction: The Women of Millet MountainPart I: Resistance in Survival
YOLANDE MEVS - My Head Burning with the Burden
ALINA "TIBEBE" CAJUSTE - A Baby Left on the Doorstep in a Rotten Basket
LOVLY JOSAPHAT - I Always Live That Hope
ROSELIE JEAN-JUSTE - A Woman Named Roselie Who Fought Back
VENANTE DUPLAN - I Don't Have the Call, I Don't Have the Response
MARIE SONIA PANTAL - SchoolPart II: Resistance as Expression
LELENNE GILLES - I'll Die with the Words on My Lips
MARCELINE YRELIBN - Singing a Woman's Misery
ALINA "TIBEBE" CAJUSTE - Getting the Poetry
YANIQUE GUITEAU DANDIN - The Struggle for Creole
GRACITA OSIAS - Chaleron's Lesson
FLORENCIA PIERRE - The Cultural Soul
MARTINE FOURCAND Expanding the Space of ExpressionPart III: Resistance for Political and Economic Change
ALERTE BELANCE - My Blood and My Breath
YOLETTE ETIENNE - Jumping over the Fire
LOUISE MONFILS - The Samaritan
VITA TELCY - Five Cans of Corn
MARIE JOSEE ST. FIRMIN - Sharing the Dream
ROSEMIE BELVIUS - Reshuffling the CardsPart IV: Resistance for Gender Justice
LISE-MARIE DEJEAN - Minister of the Status and Rights of Women
GRACITA OSIAS - The Marriage Question
LOUISE MONPILS - Walking with My Little Coffin
YOLANDE MEVS - Support for the Children
YANIQUE GUITEAU DANDIN - A Country's Problems, A Woman's Problems
MARIE ]OSEE ST. FIRMIN - Deciding My Life
OLGA BENOIT - Assuming the Title "Feminist"
JOSETTE PERARD - The Carriage Is LeavingPart V: Resistance Transforming Power
CLAUDETTE WERLEIGH - Lighting Candles of Hope
MARIE SONIA DELY - Sharing the Breadfruit
LISE-MARIE DEJEAN - The People Say Jump
MYRIAM MERLET - The More People Dream
YANNICK ETIENNE - You Can't Eat Gumbo with One Finger
MYRTO CELESTIN SAUREL - Rocks in the River
KESTA OCCIDENT - A Stubborn HopeEpilogue: Resistance as Solidarity
ALERTE BELANCE - Get Up, Shake Your BodiesNotes
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What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Beverly Bell's remarkable book allows thirty-eight Haitian women to speak for themselves. Defying victim status, together they tell the story of how Haiti's poor and dispossessed women have fought for their personal and collective survival. They weave together an inspiring study in resistance and alternative models of power."

Paul Farmer

"The future of engaged feminism is secure if it embraces, without ambivalence, the struggle of women living with a very different kind of violence than that encountered in North America or Europe. Beverly Bell has done us a great service in bringing to light these varied and vivid testimonies of Haiti's cruel modernity and women's resistance to it. Many of the authors of these essays do indeed walk on fire. Some, like Alerte Belance—left for hacked to death after being dumped, along with other activists, in a notorious potter's field—have survived a long, barefoot walk on hot coals and emerged with a message for all of us: 'In my mutilated state, my neck nearly cut in two, my tongue cut in two, my left hand cut in two, my right arm cut in two, God rescued me for a reason. He put his force in me so I could struggle for women, not only to have life, but rights and freedom.'."

Margaret Randall

"In transcribing the istwa—stories and history—of these Haitian women, Beverly Bell opens a door that has been closed for much too long. Oppressed beyond imagination, these voices convey sensibility, courage, creativity and power. I am moved at my core."

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Walking on Fire: Haitian Women's Stories of Survival and Resistance 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Paints vivid picture of modern Haiti