Renowned and acclaimed fiction writer Julia Alvarez, the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents is probably the last person one would think would devote an entire semi-memoir to Haiti. But maybe not. Alvarez’s roots are in the Dominican Republic, Haiti’s twin sister, and she and her husband Bill are the owners of Alta Gracia an organic coffee form that also doubles as a literacy arts center.
The title of the book A Wedding in Haiti, refers to Piti’s nuptials. Piti, is a lanky fellow, Alvarez met while he was still in his teens, who she and her husband Bill kept in touch with over the years, supporting him with thoughtful gifts. Despite the fact that they are worlds apart: Julia Alvarez is a member of the literary elite back in America, and is the granddaughter of members of the Dominican oligarchy, whereas Piti is the son of a hut-living family, the friendship forments to almost son-mother pro.
Alvarez nonchalantly promised to come to his wedding someday, not realizing that Piti would jump the broom and hold her on his promise. What follows is a brand new genre perhaps: travelmoirlogue. The book is about a wedding in Haiti in the town of Moustique, but it’s also about the aging of The Pitouses, the nickname of Alvarez’s Alzheimer-affected parents. The book is about the close and touching friendship between the nationals of two countries, who traditionally do not always get along. It’s also about immigration and border escapades, as one of the book’s most fast-paced passages regarding Dominican checkpoints show.
And how a U.S.-born raised Dominican views the lack of autonomy of young, mountain-dweelling Haitian countryside wives. An exchange between Alvarez and Piti concerning his post-marital travel plans with his new wife Eseline and their daughter Ludy:
But what about Eseline? “Shouldn’t you talk this over with her first? I say, sticking up for the female’s right to decide. “Tomorrow she is my wife and must do what I say,” Piti explains, matter-of-factly…”You must talk it over with Eseline,” I insist. Piti gives me a perfunctory yes-mom nod. I have a feeling the talk will not be the kind of conversation I am thinking of.”
And inevitably, the earthquake that struck Haiti becomes part of the story; it’s the moment of personal reflection for Bill, Eli, Homero—others who are part of Alvarez’s journey. It’s a wedding in Haiti, but the feast is in Hispaniola.