Haiti’s Paper War

This week we look at the literary history of postcolonial Haiti by examining challenges and intricacies documented through newspapers, government records, and literature

Haiti’s Paper War: Post-Independence Writing, Civil War, and the Making of the Republic, 1804–1954

Stieber, Chelsea. New York University, 2020
380p bibl index, 9781479802135 $89.00, 9781479802159 $30.00, 9781479802166

Writing in the precise, evocative language of a masterful chronicler, Stieber (Catholic Univ. of America) examines Haiti’s volatile post-independence struggles in governing. It is a revolutionary tale of the battle between autocratic or republican rule waged in the press and literary circles of the period. Covering the entire 19th century and the first half of the 20th, Stieber provides an in-depth analysis of the personalities of those seeking power and the historical external and internal events that shaped the fate of a nation. She provides insightful details about the fluctuating, and constantly changing, military and public attitudes toward self-governing. Haiti—as empire and as republic, including its rise from an enslaved colonial state through the ruptures of post-colonial civil wars—has been examined in depth by scholars. What makes this study particularly significant, and singular, is Stieber’s exhaustive examination of primary source material—newspapers, pamphlets, official government documents, personal correspondence, and literary texts. Through her critical analyses of writing as a tool to shape a nation, Stieber unveils the multilayered meanings of liberté that defined Haiti from its declaration of independence in 1804 to the mid-20th century. This compelling and accessible study would provide fertile ground for a similar examination of Haiti from where Stieber ends in 1954 to the present day.

Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty; professionals; general readers.
A. J. Guillaume Jr., emeritus, Indiana University South Bend
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Latin American & Latina/o Studies
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature – Romance
Choice Issue: Oct 2021

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