Koa Books

 

Koa Books

Books on Personal
Transformation,
Progressive Politics,
and Native Cultures


Voices of Dissent

Foreword by Paul Farmer, MD

This deeply affecting story about an American’s coming to terms with her connection to Haiti—and thus to a world of pain and joy and suffering and inspiration— is surprisingly unsentimental, given that her story, and the story of the people she came to know and admire, is at turns wrenching and inspiring.  

Toddler Eating at the Food Program: On That Day, Everybody Ate

Traveling from comfortable California to the slums of Port- au-Prince, Margaret Trost encounters, for the first time, an almost biblical poverty, “spread out for miles and miles in all directions.” But poverty, she knows, doesn’t just happen; poverty has a history, just as people living in poverty have their own stories. Struggling quietly with her own compara- tive privilege, Trost asks herself, again and again, what forces and events left so many Haitians living on the edge and what, if anything, might make a difference.

On That Day, Everybody Ate is the story of how Margaret Trost answered these questions with the help of her Haitian guides—most of them parishioners of a Catholic church in which the commandment to feed the hungry is taken seri- ously—and it unfolds like a quiet revelation. As we learn about the family that takes in Trost (and her son and brother), we also learn about her own losses (widowed without warn- ing at 34), her fears (Am I doing enough? How do we live on a fragile planet in which the excesses seen, say, in the Miami airport—all those unfinished meals!—and the hungry slums of Haiti are but an hour and a half apart?), and her growing awareness of how the ostensibly separate worlds of rich and poor, sick and well, hungry and sated, are really one world.

This book should enjoy wide readership as more and more of us who do enjoy comparative privilege become aware of how much so many others struggle simply to survive. This small, polished gem of a book is one compelling answer to many questions about how to inject meaning in our lives without doing damage to history—without ignoring or eras- ing the ties that bind us all together.

Haitian kids eating at the food program

For those already familiar with Haiti, Trost also offers an intimate portrait of this parish of the poor, St. Clare’s, and of its leaders, including the courageous and charismatic Father Gerry Jean-Juste, the first Haitian to be ordained a Catholic priest in the United States. Even before the epilogue, which tells of Father Jean-Juste’s tribulations after a violent coup and international machinations unseat, yet again, the elected government of Haiti, the reader has been ably guided over the slippery and jagged terrain of modern-day Haiti. Indeed, the country takes its rightful place, alongside Trost’s host family, Jean-Juste, and his parishioners, as the source of im- portant lessons for all of us.  

But On That Day, Everybody Ate is not a history lesson: Trost’s account, full of humility even as it is told exclusively in the first person, is above all her own attempts to come to terms with the shock of extreme poverty. It is moving and suffused with optimism and a simple, unvarnished convic- tion—her own and that of the protagonists she sketches so vividly—that no one should be denied the right to survive and that anyone and everyone can do something to make a difference in the lives of our closest neighbors.


Paul Farmer, MD
Partners In Health
Harvard Medical School
July 2008  

 

 

 

 

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