I spent a lot of this past weekend reading. A particularly insightful, troubling, well-written, and (not exaggerating much here) earth-shaking book I devoured is "Damming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment." Paul Farmer, the Harvard doctor who set up the famous network of health clinics in Haiti (his great biography is 'Mountains Beyond Mountains') reviewed this book, saying that it is "THE best book for anyone wanting to learn about recent politics in Haiti." And Paul Farmer is LEGIT!
The book goes a long way in explaining why Haiti is so incredibly poor and how it has been beset by a wearisome history of oppression - both domestically and internationally. Surprisingly, the US had a major part to play, and not the positive one I might have hoped for. US and international aid agencies also have not only flaws but outright agendas that often help cripple the country.
For some people this book will be (highly) political. For me, it is simply and profoundly about truth. What happened in the beginning of Haiti's independence, and in its more recent history? What were peoples' motivations? What were the consequences (or fruit) of their actions and decisions? In these decisions, were the Haitians treated with dignity and respect? Where was profound hypocrisy involved?
I truly, truly, truly cannot recommend this book enough. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I had never realized or understood before. It made me furious, it made me cry, and it also gave me hope. (Geeze, that sounds melodramatic, but it is seriously true!!!!) Please, please, read this book!
(The version I read came out in 2007. There is an updated version coming out in November 2010 that additionally covers the period 2007-2010. I would recommend getting the book now anyway!)