Mouths Don't Speak

As Jacqueline, a Haitian art teacher living in Baltimore, watches the news reports of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she mourns for her country and prays that her family, somehow, is alive. Her husband, Kevin, a former marine who battles PTSD, takes care of their three-year-old daughter, but is often too wrapped up in his own suffering to be sympathetic to Jacqueline's. In the aftermath of the quake, Jaqueline struggles with her national identity--she left Haiti for boarding school when she was 10, and while she considers herself Haitian, she feels disconnected from both the country and her parents, who sent her away from it. "She had never considered herself an expat. In order for her to identify as an expatriate, she had to have been a patriot in the first place." She had never planned to see Haiti again, but almost a year after the earthquake, she feels compelled to return. "She wanted to remember the person she was long ago, before leaving Haiti. The country was a part of her no matter how much she tried to run away from it."

With lush descriptions and Creole-inflected dialogue, Katia D. Ulysse frankly and deftly writes about the nuances and class differences in Haiti. Mouths Don't Speak explores how trauma touches us at home and abroad, wherever those places may be. This includes the experiences of the underserved kids Jaqueline teaches, American veterans, the earthquake victims, and children and their parents. Ulysse illustrates the complicated but unbreakable connections we have to family and home, and shows how privilege doesn't necessarily keep you from tragedy. --Katy Hershberger, freelance writer and bookseller

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