Edited and with an introduction by Edwidge Danticat. Soho, $15 paper (272p) ISBN 1-56947-218-1

The experience of Haitian émigrés in what novelist Danticat (Krik? Krak!; etc.) calls the "tenth" geographical "department" of Haiti-"the floating homeland, the ideological one, which joined all Haitians living in the dyaspora"-is the theme of this collection of 33 spare and evocative essays and poems. Most of these writers fled political instability as children and describe the dual reality of alienation from yetbelonging to two worlds, forging an identity separate from that of their parents in the new country, while at the same time continuing to wait for stability in the old country. Nikòl Payen tells of her experience as a U.S. Justice Department-sponsored interpreter who uses her knowledge of Kreyòl ("the language whose purpose in life up until now had been to pain and confuse me") as "an asset" to translate for refugees waiting in horrific conditions at Guantanamo Naval Base following the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When she witnesses the return of some of these Haitians-denied entrance to the U.S.-she likens their journey to the African Middle Passage. In another, Marie-Hélène Laforest, whose lighter skin color and family's wealth made her "white" in Haiti, realizes that she is simply black in America and later forges a third identity in Italy. Francie Latour, a journalist, convinces her American newspaper to send her to Haiti with a noble aim, but ends up "hitting a cultural wall" and being viewed as a "traitor" by her native people. This rich collection of writings will appeal to the growing number of Haitian-Americans and others interested in the question of the émigré's sense of identity. (Feb.)