cover image Drifting


Katia D. Ulysse. Akashic, $15.95 trade paper (254p) ISBN 978-1-61775-240-7

Ulysse’s debut collection of interlinking stories shows the impact of change, both geographic and cultural, on five modern Haitians. Most depict immigration to the U.S., with the exception of “Part I: The Least of These,” which shows a Haitian-American woman named Michelle returning to her homeland. In “Part II: Flora,” Flora Desormeau moves to New York City with her mother and two sisters, where she hopes to be reunited with her best friend, Yseult Joseph, who made the move before her. There she encounters a sexually predatory schoolteacher, “Mr. E,” who lures his pupils into working at strip clubs. In “Part III: Yseult,” we see Yseult’s own journey to New York. The title character of “Part IV: Sagesse” leaves Haiti with her mother and has the same fate as Flora. Ulysse’s stories weave back and forth across time (from the 1970s to 2010) and space (from Haiti to New Jersey). Her characters are diverse in age and class, but united by common experiences. As one says: “Going to New York is a lot like dying. You have to leave all your possessions behind.” Aside from the melodramatic Mr. E. plot strand, which better fits the soap operas Flora’s mother watches obsessively, this is an arresting account of the contemporary Haitian-American experience. [em](July) [/em]