The extraordinary life of Marilene Phipps began in Haiti-the magical island of African Vodou gods who followed their devotees on the slave ships, and the world's first black republic-the singular cultural context and exotic milieu of the Caribbean, where hell and paradise can transfix us daily. In this powerful memoir, we enter the lives of a family who are both descendants of European aristocrats and African slaves. We meet Phipps's godfather, the rebel leader Gusl Villedrouin, and we relive her experiences with Vodou priests and spirits, a cold-eyed pope, a charismatic Muslim astrologer, Catholic monks and exorcists, American Mormon bishops, scholars and missionaries. Through it all, we are stirred by the antithetical feel of entitlement and destitution, barbarism and lyricism, infinity and insanity. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti brings a collapse to Phipps's world, but is also the start for her to find modern answers to the ancient questions, ''Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?''
Author Bio: Marilene Phipps held fellowships at the Guggenheim Foundation, and at Harvard's Bunting Institute, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, and the Center for the Study of World Religions. Her collection, ''The Company of Heaven: Stories from Haiti, '' won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Her poetry won the 1993 Grolier poetry prize, and her collection, ''Crossroads and Unholy Water'' won the Crab Orchard Poetry Prize. Her work is published in England by Carcanet Press, and is found in American anthologies and collections such as The Best American Short Stories, Haiti Noir: The Classics, The Beacon Best, Ploughshares, River Styx, Callaloo, and Harvard Divinity Bulletin. She was the editor of the Jack Kerouac Collected Poems for The Library of America.
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