Haiti has been the subject of more than its share of lurid narratives. In her introduction to “Haiti Noir,” Danticat discusses some of the “dark tales” that emerged from Haiti during the US Marine occupation of 1915-34. Books like “The Magic Island” by William Seabrook and “Voodoo Fire in Haiti” did their part to create a persistent image of Haiti as a land of zombies and cannibals.
By focusing on tales of crime and cruelty, “Haiti Noir” might be expected to generate more of the same. But Danticat maintains that if “mind-blowing and sometimes bone-chilling” stories are to be written about Haiti, they should be written by Haitians themselves. Of the 18 stories in this collection, all but two are written by Haitians, though many of them live in the diaspora. Madison Smartt Bell and Mark Kurlansky, white Americans with a deep knowledge of the country, are given the honor of inclusion.