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Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  434 ratings  ·  89 reviews
An account of a long, painful, ecstatic—& unreciprocated—affair with a country that has long fascinated the world. The Rainy Season, Amy Wilentz’s award-winning 1989 portrait of Haiti after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, was praised in the NY Times Book Review as “a remarkable account of a journalist’s transformation by her subject.” In her relationship with the country ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (NYC) (first published January 1st 2013)
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Nov 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, haiti
A week after the Haitian earthquake of 2010, I came across this American guy setting up relief packs on a little folding table, by what used to be a street corner in a levelled part of Port-au-Prince. He'd come on behalf of some church group back in I think Murfreesboro, TN, and he was putting together these little packs made up of bottled water, pasta, iodine tablets, dried fruit. Laying them out on the table. A line of Haitians was starting to form in front of him, waiting for the packs to be ...more
Karen Ashmore
Mar 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although I eagerly devoured Amy Wilentz’s new book Farewell, Fred Voodoo, it sometimes seemed antithetical. One chapter espoused a certain tenet and then just a few chapters later she stated just the opposite.

For example, much of the book is spent detailing the “miraculous” work of Dr. Megan Coffee, who flew to Haiti after the earthquake and practices medicine on a volunteer basis with a TB ward in Port au Prince. Yet towards the end of the book Wilentz admits that some of the best private hospi
Rob Slaven
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
As always seems to be the case, I received this book courtesy of a GoodReads giveaway. Despite that kind consideration my candid thoughts reside comfortably below.

The first thing to make absolutely clear about this book is that I was rather surprised to find it in the 'Travel Guides' section of Amazon. I imagine a travel guide as a book that suggests "you absolutely MUST see X but don't go to Y or you won't come back" but that's clearly not the focus of this book. There are no lavish photographs
Erik Graff
Mar 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: underdevelopment students
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: travel
Not as impressive as her previous The Rainy Season, a survey of Haitian history and politics after the fall of Baby Doc, this "Letter" is a rather scattershot, impressionistic view of the country after the earthquake and subsequent cholera epidemic. Insofar as it has a point--other than giving a sense of the place and its people--the book touches upon broader themes of third world underdevelopment and first world exploitation of same, often in the guise of 'aid'.

Personally, my stepbrother being
Andrew Schirmer
May 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: haiti
I am, either the best, or perhaps the worst sort of reader for this book, knowing virtually nothing about Haiti and her history, but my interest was piqued by Pooja Bhatia's review here. Amy Wilentz is a journalist with an extensive background covering Haiti and the author of a well-received previous work ably reviewed with an illuminating thread here.

If reality, as Nabokov writes somewhere, can only be constructed through a series of approaches (my math background cries out: to infinity?), Wil
This is the second book by Amy Wilentz that I read before my trip to Haiti. This one has more of a personal/memoir with less of a journalistic flavor. Amy also seems more pessimistic and jaded in this write up than in 'The Rainy Season', and who can blame her? After 20+ years of traveling to and writing about Haiti, it's no wonder she's critical. In a way I found it refreshing.

This is predominately focused on Haiti after the 2010 earthquake that devastated the country. It's almost written like a
Jun 08, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: half-read
Don't waste your money on this book full of cliches while hypocritically claiming that it wants to depart from them. This is a clever glorification of the White Savior Industrial complex. Refer to Karen's review under Community Review for the summary of all the things wrong with this book. ...more
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a series of essays -- anecdotes, reflections, pensees -- about Haiti. The writer has been visiting Haiti for 20 years and has written about it extensively in a voice, from a perspective that is thoughtful and self-consciously ignorant. She is an outsider.

Haiti is utterly fascinating. It's not African. It's not Caribbean. It's not European. It's certainly not American. It's all of these, but none of them, either. It's a life unique unto itself, intimately involved with death and destructi
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Upon winning a copy of Farewell, Fred Voodoo and reading it's summary, my first thought was, “Oy, more White people writing about POC instead of letting them tell their own stories.” I don't regret that reaction because, frankly, I'm positive Ms Wilentz would have thought it as well.

In addition to Haitian history (specifically the slave revolt), Farewell focuses on the recent and destructive earthquake and the ways in which foreign aid organizations have swarmed in and, in many cases, made the
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great insight and empathy and from a writer who knows and loves Haiti, not just despite Haiti's issues but because of them. Some things were so bitingly truthful that it was almost hard to read and have it put into black and white terms, others were so glaringly cynical and ironic I wanted to scream.

I appreciate her being able to authoritatively call out Mac McClelland, a narcissistic writer for Mother Jones, who's highly publicized white girls problems made the rounds on the internet after the
Clinton Smith
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The excellent Farewell, Fred Voodoo takes time to reveal its true nature, and the extent to which it’s such a personal book—perhaps more about both the author herself and also about how the nature of one’s perception of, for example, concepts such as “culture”, “revolutionary thought”, or “hope” changes over time and with age. The reason for this is that Wilentz, to set the stage for this, must describe with intimate detail the level of immiseration Haitians were living in post-earthquake (2011 ...more
I had started Farewell, Fred Voodoo before the trip, so it was the only book I took with me in physical book format.

I finished it shortly after we landed, despite having watched a stupid Hollywood film on the plane, a long-standing flight policy of mine that goes something like this: I will never pay to watch this horrendous film that has nothing to do with reality and has molded some "true" story under the iron hammer of Hollywood formula into a hollow nothing, unless I am on a plane and it is
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Amy Wilentz covers a lot of history, astute observations regarding disaster relief and the odd characters drawn to such situations and those specifically drawn to Haiti. This is the type of reading I recall falling in love with while a student at university. It makes me question everything from my own current government, to historical revolutions, to cultural differences and to my own motivations to travel to such a place (as we are soon doing). Haiti's story always seems so complicated, but Wil ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Having read the author's first book, The Rainy Season, I was interested in this collection of essays. I am traveling to Haiti with a group in a few weeks and was interested in Wilentz' thoughts about race and aid, among other topics. While her first book was well-written but very dense with history and politics, this book is more about her own thinking about Haiti. She does interview people -- aid workers, Haitians, some politicians -- but mostly this is her wondering what Haiti needs and who sh ...more
Jun 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I am always trying to learn more about Haiti and its culture. While I appreciated the author's firsthand perspective, I would have liked to have heard more about the positive spirit of the Haitian people. I imagine it would be frustrating to watch mission group after mission group coming to Haiti trying to help but really exacerbating the problem at times. It would have been nice to have read about some proposed solutions instead of just coming down on those who have good intentions in their hea ...more
Jennifer Haupt
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-love
I have read many books about Haiti, and this one stands out. Wilentz, a former reporter for Time Magazine, has a journalist's questioning mind. There are no easy answers when it comes to addressing the problems of Haiti. This is a personal journey, written in an engaging voice, like a friend talking with you over a cup of coffee about their love affair with a country that's is filled with heartache. Thank you, Amy Wilentz. ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book -- includes history, current politics, colorful characters --it felt like a confessional --as to why are foreigners lured by Haiti -- and what can we possibly do it there to help -- if anything. An honest account by a great writer.
Erica Meadows
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
i love books about Haiti, and always enjoy reading books by Amy Wilentz (I loved th Rainy Season and read it a few times.) this was an interesting and engaging description of post earthquake Haiti.
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Deeply intelligent, written with empathy and soul. Superb book, it will take you into the heart of a complex, vibrant, resonant world. Gripping reading, the pages will turn by themselves.
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing

Nearly five years ago, an earthquake devastated Haiti. I thought I would do some reading on the subject and find how how much progress, if any, has been made. Amy Wilentz has written about Haiti extensively, well before the earthquake, and in Farewell Fred Voodoo, she offers her valuable insights.

What could we do for Haiti, if anything, and conversely what did Haiti do for us? What kept us here? Why did some of us come back again, and again? Like me.

Wilentz examines these questions throughout th

Who is Fred Voodoo? Fred Voodoo is a term invented by foreign journalists to mean “the (Haitian) man (woman) on the street”. It reflects a condescending view of Haitians. But Haitians know that, and they almost always beat foreigners at their own game, which the author Wilentz describes repeatedly in the book. In Haiti, every Haitian looks for his/her own “white man” (who can be a women) as a matter of survival. But the author contends that foreigners are equally dependent on Haitians to make th ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is a must, especially for anyone interested in doing social justice. It voices nearly all my concerns regarding modern takes on imperialism in Haiti, a country with much (well-deserved) pride and dignity. It also forces reflection on unsustainable forms of "foreign aid" (hand-outs). ...more
The longer I sit after reading this book, the more inclined I am to give it five stars. "Farewell, Fred Voodoo" is not perfectly written, organized, or executed, and the author Amy Wilentz is inclined to be harsh and judgmental towards those she disapproves of. Still, it resonated with me, and since this is a subjective rating system, I'll do just that. Interpreted as fictional literature might be, "Farewell, Fred Voodoo" is a book about human imperfection on a global scale, so it fits that it's ...more
Roy Howard
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amy Wilentz has spent over thirty years traveling in Haiti writing extensively about the country including the award-winning book The Rainy Season about the post-Duvalier years. Yet Wilentz is emphatic that she is an outsider simply because she is non-Haitian, a status that will never change and give her choices unknown to most Haitians. To be an outsider places her among the hordes of aid workers, missionaries, celebrities and assorted “do-gooders” who descended upon Haiti. She knows Haiti bett ...more
Oct 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was one of the fortunate ones that won Farewell, Fred Voodoo on Goodreads First Reads. I am so very honored to have been one of the first members of the general public to have experienced this book before the rest of the community.

In saying that, I am also one of the first readers to rate the book & share my personal thoughts.

1) Amy Wilentz, the author, is a world renowned journalist who uses her editorial style to paint us, the readers, a very realistic view of Haiti, pre- and post- earthqua
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Amy Wilentz has been reporting on Haiti since 1986, immediately before Jean-Claude Duvailier “Baby Doc” fled the country. She knew Aristide when he was just a shantytown priest. Wilentz reluctantly returned to Haiti shortly after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and this work of literary journalism exposes the ugly underbelly of the international aid machinery (most of the $1.6 billion pledged by the United States in relief was given back to U.S. entities, such as Homeland Security, Health and H ...more
Michael Long
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a very enlightening and interesting tale of the author's experiences living in Haiti as a journalist. The book goes into great detail to describe the plight of the Haitian people and why the country is in such disarray. It offers insight into how the nation on Haiti began, what happened to the original inhabitants, how the country lived through regime after regime, foreign interventions, coups, and more. It describes how the Haiti people live, what voodoo is and how religion plays into t ...more
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I was looking for a book about Haiti in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and figured that Amy Wilentz, who has written extensively about Haiti, would be a good source. This is a well written book, especially good on the personalities involved in relief efforts, but at the end of the day there is something off-putting about Wilentz's tone.

Her relentless singling out of US occupations as the root cause of Haiti's present day ills smacks of reflexive leftism. Somehow it doesn't occur to her

May 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: world-history
I loved Rainy Season and picked this one up as soon as I could with high expectations. I found it difficult to finish (though I did) possibly because my expectations were so high, or because I was looking for more of a narrative of Haitian history than this more randomized "letter" or, most likely, because this book is totally drained of hope for Haiti. Wilentz talks about the common narratives that Haiti is hopeless - you can come in with great ideas and energy, yet achieve nothing due to the d ...more
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Part memoir, part love letter, part history lesson, Farewell Fred Voodoo evoked a great deal of self reflection as an individual and as an American. Clearly, Wilentz has experienced Haiti on a deeper and more authentic level than most people. Her intensely personal reflections on post-earthquake Haiti were interesting and illuminating. I felt she was walking the razor’s edge at times; criticizing the motivations of journalists and celebrities who come to Haiti for good copy and/or good publicit ...more
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Amy Wilentz is the award-winning author of The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier; Martyrs’ Crossing, a novel about Jerusalem, and I Feel Earthquakes More Often Than They Happen: Coming to California in the Age of Schwarzenegger.

From 1995 through 1999, she was The New Yorker’s Jerusalem correspondent. She’s a contributing editor at The Nation magazine and teaches in the Literary Journalism progra

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