Taste of Salt: A Story of Modern Haiti by Frances Temple 1992
IQ "Other thoughts push to my mind. How there be two kinds of freedom. The one kind I already did know about, had a taste of at Titid's, and before, too with Lally. That was a run-around freedom that seem far away from me now-freedom to make your plan, drum on the shoeshine box, earn a little money, buy a chicken, read the paper. But the other kind, when I think about how in time I will be dead, it seem more true. that be freedom from worrying what to do for Djo. That's the kind of freedom Donay had always. Donay not think about himself. And I think if I can find Donay's kind of freedom, then I will be ready for the other kind. Be ready to use it right." Djo pg. 89
Taste of Salt is told through the alternating viewpoints of Djo and Jeremie (like the town in Haiti). The story takes place in the 1980s when Duvalier's dictatorship is overthrown. Djo is one of "Titid's boys, a member of Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide's election team that is fighting to overthrow the military dictatorship in Haiti. However, when the story starts, Djo has just been critically injured in a bombing at the home for "Titid's boys". Jeremie has her own story, one that she is not willing to share. She was sent to record Djo's story by Father Aristide and that's all she wants to do. She's not particularly concerned about the future of Haiti, all she wants to do is get a good education and leave Haiti. But listening to Djo's story stirs something in Jeremie and her plans for the future (and his) may change.
Taste of Salt is no longer a modern story of Haiti. It does describe the tumultuous time when Haiti was struggling for democracy. I didn't know much about Father Aristide (nicknamed "Titid") and I thought it was quite interesting to hear that a priest was running for president. The story starts off being narrated by Djo and ends with Djo. Djo has gone through a lot and its been traumatic. But he's turned out ok. He's becoming a man and it's a delightful journey to read about. Jeremie was a good character with an intriguing story. She's passive in the face of all the danger and events occurring in Haiti. She wants to go places and really make something of herself. What she doesn't seem to realize is that she can leave and make something of herself, but she can't just abandon her home country. I enjoyed reading about her struggle to listen to Djo's story, it's not easy to listen to and he looks terrible as a result of the bombing. He can hardly move his limbs and he's black and blue. At first, Jeremie is repulsed by him and how he looks but she gradually learns to conquer her fear and just listen. The cruelty of Duvalier and his cronies (called the Tonton Macoute) was horrifying especially in relation to how they treated women and children.
The only thing that was a bit disconcerting was the way Djo spoke. He often referred to himself in 3rd person and he didn't use the best of grammar, but I quickly got use to it. It seemed quite realistic, because I just kept imagining that Djo was telling the story in English and his English wasn't perfect.
Taste of Salt is a through story that gets the reader involved, from violence, revolutionaries religion, to Dominican-Haitian relations, this story covers a wide spectrum of issues that Hatti faced in the 1980s. The characters have a dry and almost naive sense of humor. The readers witness history in the making and the outcome is not clear as Haiti is still developing. Djo and Jeremie have been through a lot and you know in closing the book that unfortunately, life is going to continue to be hard for them and Haiti. Both characters had to work hard to get to the point where they are and they came from nothing. They are remarkable characters who somehow manage to make the unbearable scene in Haiti, bearable. They never stop working and believing that Fr. Titid will be elected. This story isn't entertaining, but it does educate and inspire. The writing isn't anything spectacular but it's teens making a difference, actively taking a role in making a change and tells a story that is not often told. High school and up.
To Learn: Here are two lists on books about Haiti. Lyn Miller- Lachmann's suggestions and Mitali Perkin's Kid/YA Books Set in Haiti
To Help: Donate to Yele. This organization was started by musician Wyclef Jean. It's come under some controversy about its financial management, but it was dismissed. You can donate money directly or shop in the store and the proceeds will go to the organization.