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The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster

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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  533 ratings  ·  114 reviews
On January 12, 2010, the deadliest earthquake in the history of the Western Hemisphere struck the nation least prepared to handle it. Jonathan M. Katz, the only full-time American news correspondent in Haiti, was inside his house when it buckled along with hundreds of thousands of others. In this visceral, authoritative first-hand account, Katz chronicles the terror of tha ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Palgrave Macmillan Trade
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Breakingviews
By Robert Cole

It is three years since a massive earthquake devastated Haiti. A new book by Jonathan Katz suggests that the ensuing international aid effort gave the stricken the Caribbean country all possible assistance, short of actual help. He suggests, indeed, that the outsiders did more harm than good.

Haiti’s crisis plucked at the world’s heart strings. Bill Clinton, Sean Penn and Angelina Jolie were among the famous names who stepped up as advocates for the dispossessed. Katz reports that $
...more
CD
Author Jonathan Katz takes no prisoners nor pulls any punches in his extraordinary work on Haiti. Katz was the only full time America journalist living in Haiti at the time of the disastrous 2010 earthquake that was centered beneath the major population center of the country.

Haiti is more than misunderstood and impoverished. It is a lesson in bad intentions, mismanagement, corruption, arrogance, and host of other problems unlike any other place. Then there are the Haitians themselves! The Intern
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Jim Marshall
I wanted to review this book briefly because I think it might have been overlooked when it first came out several years ago. Written by Jonathan Katz, an AP journalist stationed in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the book chronicles the devastation of the hurricane and earthquake that nearly destroyed Haiti in 2010. The post-disaster images were widely seen of course, as were the famous people showing up in front of cameras to convince us of their sincere support (see Bill Clinton, Bono, Sean ...more
Julie Ann Dawson
Disclaimer: I received an ARC (Advanced review copy) of this title. My review is reflective of the ARC.

It has been said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and nowhere do we see the truth of this more vividly than in Jonathan M. Katz's The Big Truck That Went By. Katz shines a bright, unforgiving light on the bureaucracy, politics, and infighting between NGO's that often due more harm than good over the long term with their emergency response to massive disasters.

The earthquake
...more
Pam
This is a fascinating and important book on many levels. It is both an entertaining and sometimes suspenseful personal account of living and reporting in Haiti during a series of crises, and an insightful examination of the advantages and pitfalls of foreign aid - both from governments and nonprofits. As someone who lived in Gaza and observed its own version of what Katz describes as the "blan bubble" (like Iraq's Green Zone), so many of the dysfunctions he observed rang true to me. We keep repe ...more
Ben
The author, Katz, was an AP reporter in Haiti during and after the 2010 earthquake that killed over 100,000 people. This book tells the story of the earthquake and about the next 18 months, through the subsequent presidential election.

The story of the earthquake itself is quite good, and one gets a good feeling for the situation in Haiti, as well as for the life of an AP reporter. However, the book declines in quality toward the end, especially with the author's detailed description of his repo
...more
Leslie
I have more compliments than criticism for this book, which is huge considering my fascination with the subject matter - what happens during and after the initial world response to a huge natural disaster in any country, but especially one like Haiti. Despite some issues, I believe this book should be standard reading for people who are considering or are actively involved in post-disaster work. I mean at any level - on the ground, administratively back home, donating from their IPhone, etc. Wha ...more
Amber
This is an important, but ultimately very flawed, book. The author was the only western journalist living in Haiti when the earthquake struck in 2010, and so has a unique perspective to describe both the quake and its aftermath to American readers.

I learned a lot about Haiti, and its institutional issues that pre-dated the earthquake--for example that the ruling Duvalier family stole as much as $800 million, and that one-sixth of Haiti's population fled during their 30-year rule.

The author's c
...more
Yvonne
4.5 StarsIf you ever think of Haiti it's probably as that unstable & poor country in the Carribbean that have coups and exiled dictators. Every so often the U.S. shows a mild interest in it and either invade it, give aid or sanctions. I knew it mostly from my years of living in S. Florida from all the times a raft full of Haitian refugees would turn up on shore only to be promptly returned to somewhere (maybe Guantanamo & eventually back to Haiti). Which would lead to great big protests ...more
Maggie
Great read! It is such a compelling story to me- I do earthquake engineering, so I feel like I know this issue from a geology and engineering perspective. But I really have no understanding of how the humans factor in. It was eye-opening to read about the history of the island (I seem to have only learned bits and pieces), the influence of Americans and our particular notable figures like the Clintons and Sean Penn, and especially the world of disaster and humanitarian aid.

I was really impressed
...more
Eileen Granfors
It is impossible to finish "The Big Truck That Went By" without feeling despair and frustration. Jonathan Katz, AP correspondent, was finishing up his assignment in Haiti when the earthquake struck.

He creates the chaos that followed in uncompromising detail. He also looks back, so that the reader gains some perspective on the economic and sociological turmoil that turned Haiti into one of the world's most-impoverished nations.

Katz uses the earthquake and the subsequent arrival of thousands of ai
...more
Brandy
*I received this book via Goodreads First Reads giveaways - Thank you!!*

What a heartbreakingly necessary book.
This should be required reading for anybody concerned with international relations, humanitarian aid/NGOs/UN missions, or really the well-being of our fellow man in general.
I helped with a Haiti fundraiser through my undergrad's campus ministry. I know we sent our collection to a Catholic organization based in Haiti, but that is the extent of my knowledge. With the seeming rise of trul
...more
Andy
PLEASE SEE COMMENTS FROM AUTHOR BELOW.

I don't understand why the author thinks we care about his difficulties getting deodorant in Haiti after the earthquake. If he had to do "creative nonfiction" then he should have focused on a local family instead of on himself. The subtitle suggests a bigger book than the rambling memoir the author delivers.

He does have some good observations and insights about what went wrong with the international response, but there's a lack of depth. He gets details abo
...more
Nancy Kennedy
This is a riveting book of solid journalism. Jonathan Katz examines the political, societal, environmental and economic forces that have kept Haiti from recovering fully from the devastating January 2010 earthquake, as well as from the ensuing cholera epidemic that followed UN peacekeepers to the island nation.

When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake hits, Mr. Katz is living in Port au Prince as a correspondent for the Associated Press. Hearing the first rumblings, he thinks, "Must be a water truck,"
...more
Sarah
Whew. This is an excellently documented, gripping read about Haiti during the 2010 earthquake that crumbled the capitol and the year of recovery, reconstruction, and continued troubles that occurred. Katz is an AP reporter, so his writing is both engaging and informed, and I appreciated his ability to stick the the facts but also describe some of his personal experiences. He expertly talks about the problems too many NGOs bring and the deep-seeded issues underlying the US or any other internatio ...more
Purple Iris
Okay, I need to pull together my thoughts about this book, so that I can move on from it. This book grabbed me from the first few pages, but about a quarter of the way through, maybe earlier, I started having mixed feelings about it. In the end, I'd rate it a 3.5, but have rounded up to 4. It is a book I would definitely recommend to people wanting to know more about the 2010 earthquake -- the reasons it was so devastating as well as the way it was (mis)handled by both Haitian and foreign author ...more
Nancy
This is one of the best non-fiction books I've read. The author is a journalist who was covering Haiti for the AP at the time of the earthquake in 2010. The house he was living in was destroyed, so he was sharing the experience of many earthquake survivors right after the quake. In the book, he talks about the immediate aftermath but also examines the international response and the way aid money was used - and not used - in the year following the event. He follows the dollars - like the ones I d ...more
Erica Shipow
Very interesting and important read. I think it would be easy to overwrite a book like this, but Katz does a really good job of letting a lot of the facts and events and people speak for themselves while also speaking for himself as a firsthand observer, letting the story build from the information rather than trying to create a narrative and fitting the information into neat little storylines.
Eric
A well-written, thorough explanation of what happened during the response and recovery in Haiti. He makes a convincing case for better coordination with the local government, and makes a strong criticism of the outside agencies. One thing that kind of bugged me, though, is that he uses his reporter's privilege to be detached a little too much. Given how much he explains about how aid worked, he really ought to also explain how aid ought to work better in a place like Haiti. With this kind of det ...more
Linda
Jonathan Katz was an AP journalist living in Port au Prince at the time of the earthquake. First hand account of the quake and the two years following the quake. He reports the events of the quake and goes on to follow the vagaries of reconstruction failures and the cholera epidemic. I thought his presentation reflected exceptional access to people and places in Haiti and was further enriched by his previous several years reporting from Hispanola. Enlightening read for anyone who wonders why all ...more
James Schaap
I've no doubt that reading other books might offer different spins on Haiti and its horrific misfortunes. Katz doesn't hold back from giving his opinions, but his authority is created upon his actually being there for the years in question, experiencing the massive earthquake itself and the countless aftershocks thereafter--the geological aftershocks as well as a host of others. Katz was there, an AP journalist, in position to write the story, and he does. It's not pretty, but then I imagine mos ...more
Matt Goldberg
Be honest: When was the last time you thought about Haiti?

My mind has drifted back to it every now and then because of how much support there was following the earthquake. Our attention eventually drifted back to other crises both personal and global, but I would occasionally wonder what happened to Haiti. Where did all that money go? Millions died, and a poor city was reduced to rubble. What happens from there?

Katz' book explores not only the what, but provides an important reminder of how comp
...more
Myriam
Well-written and researched by an American AP journalist who lived through, and survived, the earthquake, and took the time to research the history behind what he learned/witnessed prior to publishing this book. The only shortfall I found in the text was what seemed to be a narrow contact with Haitian natives in order to tell their stories; Katz may have decided to limit these stories in order to give them more depth but since most (other than a hired guid/translator) seem to have been introduce ...more
Doug
I give this book five stars for its up-close perspective on what happened in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, the tragic ineffectiveness of the substantial amount of money donated (well, “pledged” may be a better word) and the author’s willingness to propose changes to the way disaster relief is provided. I am not sure I agree with all the author’s prescriptions but they are thought provoking and, given the long-term failure of foreign aid to achieve its objectives, should be considered.

To start
...more
Alana
Author/reporter Jonathan Katz was on assignment in Haiti the day the earthquake practically destroyed the country. His firsthand knowledge and experience is a great asset for the book, but it also turns out to be problematic. As the rebuilding efforts after the earthquake unfold, including the horrible aftermath of the cholera epidemic brought to Haiti by United Nations workers, Katz tries to make sense of what is happening and what isn't happening. He's so close to the center of action, he cann ...more
John
Jonathan M. Katz was the Associated Press correspondent in Haiti awaiting reassignment to Afghanistan on Jan. 12, 2010, when the house he was living in collapsed around him.
It was the disastrous Haiti earthquake, and Katz -- who was uninjured -- would spend the next year chronicling the quake and its aftermath The result is this book, which is part memoir and part policy analysis. It's all disheartening, or perhaps maddening is a better word.
In the process, Katz challenges three myths about dis
...more
Shirley Freeman
Anyone involved in foreign affairs - from State Department personnel to NGO workers to folks going on mission trips - should read this book. It provides a detailed analysis of how the world, and Haiti, handled the aftermath of the devastating January 2010 earthquake. "Mistakes were made," which added to the tragedy. The level of influence of politicians and Hollywood types was mind-boggling. Most disturbing was the story of how cholera was brought to Haiti. As Jonathan Katz sums up in the epilog ...more
Katie
This is an excellent book on the Haitian earthquake and the aftermath of insanity that surrounded it. The author was an AP reporter and had lived in the country for two years before the quake so he was ready to start reporting. What is so refreshing and inspiring about this book, is that the author is a REAL reporter. So rare nowadays. Not trying to support an agenda, liberal or conservative, but seeking the truth of what was going on. He deserves all the awards for journalism that he won for th ...more
Susan
One of the best books about Haiti next to Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains. Katz understands and unpacks the complexity of Haiti without paternalizing the country and its people. He takes time to tell the rich history of a people that kicked out Napoleon. It's a must read for anyone seeking to do mission or development work in Haiti.
Bill
Katz writes in a very engaging way. Katz is an AP reporter who was stationed in Port-au-Prince, Haiti during the earthquake. He made me feel like I was right there with him.

But the real story here is how aid is distributed around the world to little effect. If you want to know what happened to all the money that was donated after the earthquake Katz's firsthand account will bring clarity. Katz also gives insight into how Americans generally have and continue to approach these sort of relief miss
...more
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Jonathan M. Katz is a former Associated Press correspondent and editor. The only full-time American news correspondent stationed in Haiti during the January 2010 earthquake, he stayed on to cover the aftermath and flawed recovery that followed. That fall, he broke the story that UN peacekeepers were the likely cause of a postquake cholera epidemic that killed thousands of people. Katz was awarded ...more
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“[For] decades, researchers have told us that the link between cataclysm and social disintegration is a myth perpetuated by movies, fiction, and misguided journalism. In fact, in case after case, the opposite occurs: In the earthquake and fire of 1906, Jack London observed: "never, in all San Francisco's history, were her people so kind and courteous as on this night of terror." "We did not panic. We coped," a British psychiatrist recalled after the July 7, 2005, London subway bombings. We often assume that such humanity among survivors, what author Rebecca Solnit has called "a paradise built in hell," is an exception after catastrophes, specific to a particular culture or place. In fact, it is the rule.” 1 likes
“for anyone who gave money to a major aid group, that they were going to be able to spend your $20 donation on actual survivors of the actual disaster you intended; for the most part, they were not.” 0 likes
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