New Books with SUNY Press: The Immortals by Makenzy Orcel, Queer Freedom: Black Sovereignty, and Racialized Visions

Nathan  Dize's picture

Bonswa tout moun, 

I wanted to share three forthcoming titles from the SUNY Press Afro-Latinx Futures series (Ed. Vanessa K. Valdés) coming out in November and December that engage directly with Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Mèsi anpil,

Nathan

The Immortals by Makenzy Orcel, Translated by Nathan H. Dize (30% off the list price with code ALTA20)

The Immortals is set in an infamous neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, on Grand-Rue, where many women, young and old, trade in flesh, sex, and desire. We learn, in glimpses and fragments, about the lives of women who fall in love with the moving images of television, the romance of a novel, and the dreams of escape. This moving novel asks, What becomes of these women, their lives, their stories, their desires, and their whims when a violent earthquake brings the capital city and its brothels to their knees?

To preserve the memory of women she lived and worked with, the anonymous narrator makes a deal with her client once she discovers that he is a writer: sex in exchange for recording the stories of the friends who were buried beneath the rubble. She tells the stories of women who were friends, lovers, daughters, and mothers—all while their profession sought to hide any trace of intimacy or interiority through pseudonyms and artifice. Ultimately the book reveals how a group of women sought to make a name for themselves in life, demanding that they not be forgotten in death.

Winner of France’s 2012 Prix Thyde Monnier de la Société des Gens de Lettres, The Immortals is the first work of fiction by the celebrated Haitian writer Makenzy Orcel. Mingling poetry and prose, Orcel centers stories that too often go untold, while reflecting on the power and limits of storytelling in the face of catastrophe.

Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty by Ana-Maurine Lara

Theoretically wide-ranging and deeply personal and poetic, Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty is based on more than three years of fieldwork in the Dominican Republic. Ana-Maurine Lara draws on her engagement in traditional ceremonies, observations of national Catholic celebrations, and interviews with activists from peasant, feminist, and LGBT communities to reframe contemporary conversations about queerness and blackness. The result is a rich ethnography of the ways criollo spiritual practices challenge gender and racial binaries and manifest what Lara characterizes as a shared desire for decolonization.

Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty is also a ceremonial ofrenda, or offering, in its own right. At its heart is a fundamental question: How can we enable “queer : black” life in all its forms, and what would it mean to be “free : sovereign” in the twenty-first century? Calling on the reader to join her in exploring possible answers, Lara maintains that the analogy between these terms—queerness and blackness, freedom and sovereignty—is necessarily incomplete and unresolved, to be determined only by ongoing processes of embodied, relational knowledge production. Queer Freedom : Black Sovereignty thus follows figures such as Sylvia Wynter, María Lugones, M. Jacqui Alexander, Édouard Glissant, Mark Rifkin, Gloria Anzaldúa, and Audre Lorde in working to theorize a potential roadmap to decolonization.

Racialized Visions: Haiti and the Hispanic Caribbean, Ed. Vanessa K. Valdés

As a Francophone nation, Haiti is seldom studied in conjunction with its Spanish-speaking Caribbean neighbors. Racialized Visions challenges the notion that linguistic difference has kept the populations of these countries apart, instead highlighting ongoing exchanges between their writers, artists, and thinkers. Centering Haiti in this conversation also makes explicit the role that race—and, more specifically, anti-blackness—has played both in the region and in academic studies of it. Following the Revolution and Independence in 1804, Haiti was conflated with blackness. Spanish colonial powers used racist representations of Haiti to threaten their holdings in the Atlantic Ocean. In the years since, white elites in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico upheld Haiti as a symbol of barbarism and savagery. Racialized Visions powerfully refutes this symbolism. Across twelve essays, contributors demonstrate how cultural producers in these countries have resignified Haiti to mean liberation. An introduction and conclusion by the editor, Vanessa K. Valdés, as well as foreword by Myriam J. A. Chancy, provide valuable historical context and an overview of Afro-Latinx studies and its futures.