Tuesday, May 15, 2018

So Your Character is From Haiti ... Featuring Dawlyn @ Little Blind Book Finds

It's time for this week's So Your Character is ... Post! This is a weekly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country or having a disability. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last week's  So Your Character is from Grenada ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts is as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

(None of the Images are Mine)
My name is Dawlyn Dieudonne and I will be 24 this month. My parents immigrated to the US from Haiti, but I was born and raised in the US. I’ve been to Haiti but I was too young to remember it. Now that my sisters and I are on our own, our parents moved back to Haiti for good and are doing independent mission work there. I hope to be able to visit them this summer! Though I was raised in the US, I was raised with in many aspects of the Haitian culture. I grew up in a Haitian church where mostly Haitian Creole was spoken, so I retained the dialect and learned to read it as well. 

As I am a book blogger, my most obvious hobby is reading. I’ve always loved to read since I was little and only slowed down when I got busy in college. I also like to watch movies and TV shows. This year I started my book blog, which I co-write with my friend Krista and we’ve really been enjoying it! I am currently a teacher working part-time at the Center for the Visually Impaired. I am a full-time graduate student seeking my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education.

Because I don’t live in Haiti, my parents agreed to help me out with answering some of the questions that relate to living there!
Blog//Twitter//Instagram (@littleblindbookfinds)

What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Landmarks (as told by my parents): La Citadelle in Cap-Haitian, sandy beaches, the hydro-electric plant in Péligre. 

Celebrations: November 18th, (1803), marks the final battle and victory for independence. January 1st, (1804) is Haitian Independence Day. Haitian Kanaval is a big celebration that begins in January and continues on into the weeks leading up to Mardi Gras. It coincides with many other Mardi Gras celebrations around the world. 

Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
Haiti is located in the Carribean and shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. Haiti has a tropical climate and is the most mountainous nation in the Caribbean. It has many beautiful sandy beaches which are my parents’ favorite places.

Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Haitian dishes contain a lot of rice, meats, and vegetables. Some of my favorite dishes are white rice and sos pwa (a dark sauce made of black beans), gryo (fried pork), bunun fri (fried plantains), legume (a kind of vegetable stew usually eaten with rice), and soup joumou (pumpkin soup). Soup Joumou is a significant dish because it is known as a dish that was made for and eaten by slave owners but was forbidden to be eaten by Haitian slaves. Because of his, it is tradition that the soup is made and eaten on January 1st; Haitian Independence Day.

Bunun Fri



Soup Joumou
Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”?
French and Haitian Creole are both spoken in Haiti, however, Haitian Creole is spoken most commonly in everyday conversation and it is actually a dialect of broken French, not a language. Like many languages and dialects, words and phrases in Haitian Creole do not translate well into English. For example, the phrase “po djab” is something that is said that has the intention of meaning something like “poor thing” in English, but literally translates to “devil skin”. The phrase “ban m tet mwen”, is a phrase said when someone is annoying you but literally translates to “give me my head."

Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
As told by my parents: A regular day in Haiti consists of children going to school, adults going to work, vendors selling their stuff in the streets, public transportation (Taxi Motorcycle) is very common since most people don’t own a car (cannot afford to). Children in the less privileged areas walk to school and to work, no matter the distance.  Stores and marketplaces are always full of people; electricity is scarce in most places.

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Haiti is often well known by other countries as a very poor nation. It doesn’t have a strong economy and there is a long history of greed and corruption within the government. Even with the ongoing problems in the Haitian government, it shares similarities with other countries governments in that it is a republic that holds free elections to select its leaders. Haiti is often lumped in with the cultures of other Caribbean countries because of the similarities they share, however, Haitian cultures is dense and unique in many ways from the food, to the language, to the mannerisms. 

Briefly describe three of your country’s historical events that you feel are important.
As mentioned in celebrations November 18th, (1803), marks the final battle and victory for independence. January 1st, (1804) is Haitian Independence Day. May 18tt (1803) marks the official Haitian Flag Day. The flag has undergone changes many times since the original, however, today's flag most represents the original. On it is written “l'union fait la force” or “unity makes strength”. 

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you? What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
I have come across one book that portrays Haiti and I will talk about that later. I haven’t come across any movies or TV shows. The media that really portrays Haiti badly, are American news outlets. Last year I came across a clip of a news anchor who said that Haitian children are so hungry that they eat trees. I hear made up stories like this any time Haiti is in the news. It also bothers me that it is commonly thought that Haiti was given a significant amount of aid by the United States after the devastating earthquake in 2010. The Red Cross supposedly raised 500 million dollars in aid to Haiti, but the efforts of this money are yet to be seen. After almost 8 years there is evidence of only SIX homes built in Haiti by the Red Cross. 

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
This year I read the book American Street by Ibi Zoboi and it is the only piece of media that I have come across that represents Haiti, it’s people, and it’s culture in an accurate way. Though it takes place in the US, it features a girl who comes to the United States from Haiti and is forced to leave her mother behind. I love this story because it references many aspects of Haitian culture and language in an accurate way. The author is Haitian herself which makes this story even more reliable. 

Who are your top three favorite fictional characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?

Like I mentioned before I’ve only come across one book that features a Hattian fictional character. Fabiola Toussaint from American Street is the only character I can name. 

Thank you, Dawlyn, for this very informative post! Come back next week for a post all about Hawaii!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Check out the tips archive to see which countries have been filled and if you're from a different country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)gmail(dot)com. I'm especially looking for Cuba, Venezuela, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, and Iraq.

Do you have any characters from Haiti? Did this inspire you to write a Haitian character or set a book in Haiti? Are from this or been to this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Dawlyn? Be sure to thank her!

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