Title: Maps are Lines We Draw: A Road Trip through Haiti

Author: Allison Coffelt

Publisher: Lanternfish Publishing 

Page Count:144 Pages (Paperback)

Publication Date:  20 March 2018

Genre: Travel, Memoir & Biography, Non-fiction 

Through this memoir, Allison chronicles her three-week road trip through Haiti with the guidance of Haitian Dr Gardy founder of non-profit OSAPO: Organizasyon Sante Popilé or Public Health Organisation. Like many young people who desire to work in development realm, she was inspired by her high school public health teacher and the book Mountains beyond Mountains to make a difference in the world..starting with Haiti.

Coffelt’s quick-witted and yet accommodating tone tells her story through a mix of flashbacks, historical facts and definitions which her own commentary which she justifies by saying “Vocabulary is based in history”. She is an example of those authors who do a wonderful job of showing and not telling through her prose.

This book will remind the reader that human beings are prisoners of geography (another book on my TBR shelf )-lines are drawn people who are not even alive to see the implications of their power-sharing agreements.

Maps are lines we draw poignantly highlights historical injustices committed against the Haiti,  trade imbalances associated, health issues as well as environmental issues. She acknowledges the great divide that is associated with the labels which she consistently circles back to with phrases like here versus there.

In his historical analysis of travel writing, James Buzard highlights a pattern of the self-interrupting form. It is part of a larger distinction between the traveler and the tourist, a label difference that hinges largely on perceived authenticity.

Apparently, “it became an expected feature” for travel writers to separate themselves from “tourist-serving institutions…by self-consciously demonstrating independence from them.”

The desire to separate is not a new one

Most people tend to think of travelling to developing countries in order to make a difference and to some extent ease their consciences about making the world a better especially in the form of voluntourism. It is human.  However, she subtly cautions that good intentions are not enough to make a difference:

The word travel comes travail, as in “bodily or mental labor or toil, especially of a painful or oppressive nature.” In other words: work, for both mind and  body.

I was immediately drawn to this book on Netgalley because of its title. I have never been to Haiti and was definitely curious about it. Unfortunately, I have only heard about it in negative contexts such as the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in late 2016.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in developing countries and some of the issues that plague them especially with regard to international aid. Subtly  Coffelt cautions that good intentions are not enough to make a difference. that while travelling is an opportunity.

You can sample an excerpt from her book through the essay Bodies of Water recently adapted for Still Harbor

Editor’s Note: The advanced copy and its picture was sourced from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.