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Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti

3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  290 Ratings  ·  79 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 cou ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (NYC) (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Feb 11, 2014 Blue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Karen Ashmore
Mar 23, 2013 Karen Ashmore 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
Erik Graff
Mar 01, 2016 Erik Graff 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
Jun 13, 2013 Andrew Schirmer 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
Rob Slaven
Jan 20, 2013 Rob Slaven 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
Jun 08, 2014 alice 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.
Aug 31, 2014 Kkraemer 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
Melissa Lyttle
May 12, 2013 Melissa Lyttle 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
Dec 10, 2012 Heidi 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
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 04, 2015 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: ibook-format
A very thought-provoking book, raising questions about not just America(n)'s relationship with Haiti, but first-world relationships with third-world, across the board. In a way, a very depressing book as she peels back every well-intentioned and well-organized group's history, plans, efforts and shows them to be only making things worse, or at best without much effect at all. There is a conundrum of "how to help" others whose own government/resources/social systems are mired in corruption ... wi ...more
Since I know very little about Haiti (and most of that comes from Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World) it was an interesting read - Real Life in Haiti, before and after the earthquake.

I ultimately came away unsatisfied, because I didn't really get this book. It didn't seem to have any sort of organizing principle - not a time period, not a central idea, just some stuff from her (many) trips to Haiti. It was more like, stuff that happened and r
Nov 17, 2015 B. rated it really liked it
If this is not her best output that might be a function of the exceptional high quality of other stuff she has produced. But her great writing, her love of Haiti, and her deep knowledge of the place yield insights few others can offer. Wilentz has a deep feel for the rich tapestry that is Haiti, woven from the darkest of threads to the brightest of contrasts. From this graveyard of good intentions she can offer fine and pithy insights like: "I often think that all the outsiders here -- or at lea ...more
Dec 14, 2014 Michelle rated it liked it
Took forever to read this and I'm still not sure I should have. Headed to Haiti as part of the medical team of a church group who needed a nurse. Already wondering how one nurse for one week will make a dent in the suffering, this book gave me a feeling of hopelessness. At least I'm going as medical, the only aid group excepted from her criticism of motives. I did learn some history and useful information about culture. It does seem she bashes on groups or individuals there for aid but then does ...more
Carrie La Seur
Apr 18, 2014 Carrie La Seur rated it it was amazing
Amy Wilentz's detailed, personal, thoughtful anecdotes made me want to follow her around Haiti - but not too closely, because she gets into some wild situations. She takes a complicated place with which white Americans have a long, fraught relationship and makes it fully human, not a caricature or an object of pity. Her knowledge of the place and the people is both deep and wide. She can tell about getting to know Aristide before he came to power, and describe the embarrassing foibles of journal ...more
Maria Nolletti Ross
Jun 03, 2015 Maria Nolletti Ross rated it really liked it
This book is a work of history, literary non-fiction, and an autobiography all in one. I highly recommend it. It answered all of my questions about why Haiti is the way it is now. I’m embarrassed by my naiveté and my donations to at least one wrong charitable organization after the 2010 earthquake. I greatly appreciated being set straight by the author, and while I don’t necessarily share her deep cynicism after her 20-year relationship with Haiti, its condition, and its people, I totally get it ...more
In an effort to gain some understanding of the country of Haiti and its people, I have been adding books on the subject to my reading stack. This book, although award-winning and highly recommended, just did not fulfill its promise, in my opinion. The author, a journalist with ample experience in Haiti, lets the story jump around too much between the far past, near past and present, creating a choppy and uneven narrative that just wore me out. Between that and her superior attitude toward anyone ...more
Dec 22, 2014 deconstructed rated it it was amazing
Shelves: haiti

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

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
Nov 13, 2014 Wavelength 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
Nov 30, 2012 Samantha 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- eart
Elizabeth Kiem
May 01, 2013 Elizabeth Kiem rated it liked it
It’s a strong book - as strong as The Rainy Season, but so much more introspective. On the one hand, I missed the mystery Wilentz used in her first book, when she still had to draw on the profoundness of Haiti’s strangeness to prove that she “gets it.”

On the other hand, her bare bones message here – that it took a cataclysm to convince her that the exploitation of Haiti transcends slavery, corruption, & environmental degradation to include self-help; that even the most well-intentioned outs
May 04, 2013 Liang rated it really liked it
This is my first book by Amy Wilentz, and I found it fascinating and very human. Her writing style is, from what I can tell, very similar to other journalist-authors, but there's a no nonsense directness that you don't often find, I think. She doesn't use flowery, colorful language painting abstract mental landscapes. She writes about werewolves, blood suckers, and she writes about outsiders. She writes with almost cynical passion, if that makes any sense. Wilnetz knows what she's writing about, ...more
Jun 22, 2013 Kate 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

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
Mar 03, 2013 Stephanie 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 Michael Long 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
Roy Howard
Apr 23, 2013 Roy Howard 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
May 20, 2013 Sheila 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
Dec 16, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Haiti enthuasiasts, anyone interested in good story telling about a humanitarian situation
Shelves: brain_picker
What first piqued my interest about 'Farewell, Fred Voodoo' was its bright yellow cover and the curious title. I later heard that two of my acquaintance friends from my Haiti trip were featured/interviewed by the author, so that was additional incentive to read this book over the many other tomes that have come out in recent years about post-earthquake Haiti. I had never read Wilentz's writing before, but found her to be engaging and insightful in her straight forward approach to sharing her on- ...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
More about Amy Wilentz...

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