Dance on the Volcano

Marie Vieux-Chauvet, trans. from the French by Kaiama L. Glover. Archipelago (PRH, dist.), $18 trade paper (496p) ISBN 978-0-914671-57-2
Originally published in 1957, Vieux-Chauvet’s novel of 18th-century Haiti unpacks race and class relations through the story of a talented but persecuted singer. Minette is a mulatto woman with a singing voice incomparable in all of Haiti. From a young age, her talent is nurtured by a local theater patron, who plans to cause a scandal by presenting her as the first black performer Port-au-Prince has ever seen. However, as Minette will soon find out, her benefactress’ motives are not completely pure. Minette will have a difficult struggle ahead in her quest to be taken seriously as a singer, a lover, and a free woman in a time when racial prejudice and classism trump all law and reason. Vieux-Chauvet’s novel is that rare gem that takes an ambitious scope and successfully captures the social and political turmoil of a country at war. The story’s pacing suffers as the later chapters develop at a breakneck speed, lacking transitions between major events. But those interested in Haitian history, deep explorations of social injustice, and courageous, determined heroines will find much to enjoy in Vieux-Chauvet’s masterly tale. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2016
Release date: 11/08/2016
Genre: Fiction
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