Monday, October 11, 2010

October 12, 2010. A Letter to the Reader

Hope for Haiti

October 12, 2010

To the reader,

Nine months ago, I sat at my easel with my head buried in my hands. I had no idea what to do. I felt helpless, hopeless.

January 12, 2010. A powerful earthquake leveled one of the world’s poorest and most unstable cities. Instead of the typical devastation one might expect from a quake this size, destruction and chaos maxed out at levels truly unimaginable. 230,000 people dead with many more than that horribly injured. The government sat fatally crippled and powerless. Orphaned children wandered through the rubble, night and day. So many bodies overwhelmed the morgue that they lay piled in the streets for weeks. I cannot think of a more precise depiction of hell.

My agent, Rubin Pfeffer, knowing how affected I was from the news of the earthquake, sent me one photo and one question. And it was the spark that lit the fuse. "What would your reaction be if it were a book?" After that, I never looked back. I spent every waking hour writing, editing, sketching, and painting. All in all, Hope for Haiti was written, illustrated, printed, and published, in less than nine months.

At the time, the global media reaction to the earthquake was swift, inspiring a wave of humanitarian support. While this was both unprecedented and unexpected, the longevity of such a movement was questionable. There‘s a reason it is called The News. Nobody remembers last week, let alone last year. And, sadly, much of the money donated to Haiti ended up in banks’ long term parking. While these companies are profiting from the interest they are earning on donated funds, the Haitians continue suffering. Today, more than1 million refugees still live in flimsy tents and improvised shelters in Port au Prince, not to mention those living in the semi permanent slums. Food and clean water are still in demand, and everyday items are painfully expensive.

This is why I wanted to create this book. Because, as I sat at my easel and thought about the future of Haiti, I was sure of only one thing: We will forget.

Movies, TV, Internet, anything and everything that comes across the airwaves will fade away, replaced with the next big thing, or more often, the next lame distraction. But, books… In an age of impermanence, this at least is timeless. I want to put a book on the shelf of our collective future in hopes that we might not forget this event, nor our connection with the people who endured it.

When I traveled to Haiti, I prepared myself for emotional trauma. But that is not what I left with. While the destitution is pronounced, the sense I walked away with beyond anything else? Hope. I met so many positive, intelligent, creative, ambitious kids who have all the potential in the world, if given the right tools. If anyone can forge a new Haiti, these are the ones to do it. Helping them find ways of not only surviving but thriving, turning Haiti from an exporter of only refugees, to an exporter of all kinds of produce, music, art, literature, and anything else that might benefit the nation and its people.

This is not about a simple handout, pity, a lecture from a well off country on how to do things "right", or anything else that diminishes the culture and qualities of Haiti. Instead, we come together in support of those in our human family who bear more burden than the rest, and shoulder the weight together.

Thank you for supporting this book and the efforts behind it, including We Give Books, and my publisher, Putnam/Penguin, who, through books sales, is giving a generous donation to Save the Children’s Haiti Earthquake - Children in Emergency Fund.



P.S. You can order online through sites like the ones below, or you can order personalized, signed copies directly from me. Click here to order directly from me.

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