Sample Book Ideas for Literature-Based Reading Enthusiasts
From the 1995 edition of:
The Handbook for the Young Reader's Choice Award
sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Library Association.
for more information contact
Gale Sherman: email@example.com
Bette Ammon: firstname.lastname@example.org
A 1995 Young Reader's Choice Award Nominee (Grade 9-12):
Taste of Salt: a Story of Modern Haiti
by Frances Temple
|PUBLICATION DETAILS: ||Cloth: 179 pages. 1992. $14.95 (ISBN 0-531-05459-4); public library edition $14.99 (ISBN 0-531-08609-7). Orchard. Paper: 1994. $3.99. HarperTrophy.|
|GENRES: ||Contemporary realistic fiction, multicultural|
|THEMES: ||Haiti, love, Aristide, Jean-Bertrand, military dictatorships, injustice, social change, political
upheaval, friendship, repression, freedom, democracy, education, loneliness,
pride, death, poverty, orphans, fear, family, violence, kidnapping, indentured
labor, sugar harvest, revenge, oral histories, escape, Dominican Republic,
|READABILITY: ||Sixth grade|
|INTEREST LEVEL: ||Seventh through twelfth grade|
"A gripping first novel is simply told in the voices of two Haitian teen-agers
who find political commitment and love...The main characters are idealized, but
their grim circumstances are not. We feel their struggle to reach beyond
themselves. The combination of dramatic action, romantic interest, and vivid
storytelling will grab even the most apolitical teens. The ending, when Djo
remembers the firebombing of the boys' shelter, is like a cry. The title is
from a Haitian story: everyone needs a taste of salt; otherwise, you can become
a zombie, with neither insight nor will." Booklist 88(22):2005 August
1992. Hazel Rochman. (Boxed review)
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 46(3):65-66 November 1992.
Betsy Hearne. (Column: "The Big Picture")
The Horn Book Magazine 68(6):730-31 November/December 1992. Nancy
Vasilakis. (Starred review)
"Both of their [Djo and Jeremie's] accounts are full of the grim realities of
life in modern Haiti, complete with the sense of hopefulness and helplessness
that must fill a country in which politics are a deadly game. Dialect is used
throughout, but it is readable, lyrical, and adds authenticity to the
narrative. Factual material is integrated extremely well; no background
knowledge is needed to become caught up in the drama of the many in this
embattled land as related through the eyes of two compelling characters. An
excellent first effort." School Library Journal 38(9):280 September
1992. Kathryn Havris. (Starred review)
"This is a compelling novel of Haiti during the early months of the presidency
of Jean-Bertrand Aristide...Taste of Salt is a story of despair and at
the same time one of hope, of love and of courage...This is a special book for
the special reader. Those who read it will not soon forget it." Voice of
Youth Advocates 15(5):286 December 1992. Civia M. Tuteur. (#4 quality, #3
AWARDS AND NOTABLE LISTS
- Jane Addams Award
- Horn Book Fanfare
- Booklist Editor's Choice
Virginia, France, and Vietnam were growing up places for Frances Temple, who
now lives in Upstate New York with three children and husband. A primary school
teacher, Temple read about the firebombing of the boys' shelter in Haiti and
listened to some of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's speeches. She says "I wondered
what it would be like to be one of them." Taste of Salt is Temple's
Jeremie records the oral history of seventeen-year-old Djo, who was beaten and
burned by Haitian President Duvalier's thugs. The political and social
injustices suffered by many Haitians is revealed through these conversations as
Djo struggles to overcome critical injuries to body and spirit. As Jeremie
listens and records Djo's story, she begins to fall in love and feels compelled
to share her own experiences. Real events of Haiti's recent political upheaval
are unveiled through both their stories.
INTRODUCING THE BOOK
This first novel has short sentences and significant, but not overwhelming,
dialect with Spanish and Creole words and phrases (defined in Glossary). The
book title, Taste of Salt, is taken from a Haitian folktale. To
introduce the book read aloud Temple's description of that tale: "If the zombie
can get a taste of salt, he will understand. He will open his true eyes and see
that he has been made a zombie. And he will turn against his master. He will
obey him no longer. He will make himself free." (page 26-7, hardback edition).
Titide is a priest spearheading a drive to change Haiti's inequitable social
and political system. Many people in Haiti work with him, including
seventeen-year-old Djo, who was beaten and burned by thugs working for the
president of Haiti. Djo says this:
Titid says I can no longer be his bodyguard, since my own body is
so broken. Until it is fit again, I can no longer be useful in that way. But
Titid says that it is not only the body, with its feet and hands and strong
back that can be useful. He says the mind and spirit are useful, too. That mine
are still strong, despite the blows. Titid says that for this work of
storytelling, I am fit. I don't know if he sees true. (page 6, hardback
Titid does see true. Djo's story is the story of Haiti's
fight for freedom and democracy. When you read Taste of Salt, you will
be ensnared in the drama of a people's struggle.
Titid, a priest who leads a drive toward freedom and justice in Haiti, has a
dream of what would be a decent poor man's life. Teenagers Jeremie and Djo,
working with Titid, describe the dream.
"A dry house, with a real roof.
For the dream to come true, everybody--teens, adults, and children--will have to sacrifice a lot and fight for freedom. That's the story in Taste of Salt.
"Clean water to drink.
"A big plate of rice and beans every day.
"Free from curable sickness.
"And working a job--"
"Or working the fields close to home, so families can live together."
"We been listening to the same speeches, Djo."
"Everybody in Haiti been listening to those speeches."
"Is a beautiful dream, Djo, if it can happen. Everybody working for it now."
(page 32, hardback edition)
Current Events/Haiti/United States:
Following a landslide democratic election victory in on December 16, 1990,
Titid (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) became President of Haiti when he was
inaugurated February 7, 1991. Haitians enjoyed a short-lived democracy until a
military coup was successful on September 30, 1991. Since then thousands of
mostly poor Haitians have fled this Caribbean island. In 1993, the U.S. Coast
Guard rescued 2,324 Haitians at sea, who were escaping along the
Bahama-to-Florida route. Political activists working from Little Haiti in
Miami, Florida; Clinica Estetico in New York City; and other locations are
protesting the current U.S. policy on Haitian refugees and working for the
restoration of the elected government of President Aristide.
This information, plus what students learn from Taste of Salt, can form
the basis for further research into the continuing struggle and plight of the
Haitians since 1991. Consult Return to the Darkest Days: Human Rights in
Haiti Since the Coup by Anne Fuller (Americas Watch, 1991) and/or use
other sources (Facts on File, Reader's Guide to Periodic
Literature, and the New York Times Index) to research current
articles on the Haitian situation.
Aristide: an Autobiography by Jean-Bertrand Aristide (Orbis, 1993) will
give students even more information.
Taste of Salt is set in the 1980s, prior to the election of President
Aristide. A study of modern Haitian history would enhance the understanding of
the events in this book as well as current event issues involving Haiti.
Helpful books include Haiti by Trudy Hanmer (Watts, 1988), Haiti:
Family Business by Rod Prince (Research and Action, 1985), The
Caribbean: the Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism by Franklin W. Knight
(Oxford University Press, 1990), The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier
by Amy Wilentz (Simon, 1989), and Haiti: the Duvaliers and Their Legacy
by Elizabeth Abbot (Robert Hale, 1991).
Film director Jonathan Demme has made three documentaries about Haiti beginning
with Haiti Dreams of Democracy (1987). He is currently at work on
another film dealing with life after the coup.
Djo's telling of his life's events to Jeremie (who is recording what he says)
is in fact an oral history. Students can do an oral history project with
friends or relatives concerning personal histories, regional or city histories,
and so on. Some organizations, including libraries and genealogical societies,
have ongoing oral history projects and are often looking for volunteers who
would be willing to participate.
Helpful books include How To Tape Instant Oral Biographies by Bill
Zimmerman (Bantam, 1992) and The Tape-Recorded Interview: a Manual for Field
Workers in Folklore and Oral History by Edward D. Ives (University of
Tennessee Press, 1980).
Djo's job at the boys' shelter is to teach them to read; in fact, learning to
read and making an education available to all was a critical part of
Aristide's government. Djo's used a literacy program reading series called
Taste Salt which was considered too radical by some church officials.
See the Glossary definition for Misyon Alfa, which describes this program.
Like the escaped slave in Gary Paulsen's book Nightjohn, Titide knows
the power of learning to read means freedom. Teaching literacy is an ongoing
program. Most communities have programs for adult new readers who are working
on learning to read or simply improving their reading skills. Invite your local
Literacy Volunteer director to speak about this program to your students. Or
write to Literacy Volunteers of America, 5795 Widewaters Parkway; Syracuse, NY
13214 (315) 445-800 and/or National Community Education Association, 119 North
Payne Street; Alexandria, VA 22314 (703) 683-6232.
Djo is a talented drummer and is frequently asked to drum. Haitian music is
unique, with its defined rhythm and beat, and many students may not have had an
opportunity to experience it. Bring examples of this type of music to your
classroom to play before, during, and after booktalks or to use in a study of
ethnic music. Examples include Drums of Haiti and Folk Music of
Haiti, both recorded in Haiti by Harold Courlander (Folkways)
IF YOU LOVED THIS, YOU'LL LIKE...
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- Guy, Rosa. My Love, My Love, Or the Peasant Girl
- Kincaid, Jamaica. Annie John
- Lyons, Mary E. Sorrow's Kitchen: The Life and Folklore of Zora
- Paulsen, Gary. Nightjohn
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- Sorenson, Jane. In Another Land
Copyright © 1994 by Gale Sherman & Bette Ammon. All right reserved.
Converted to HTML with permission, by David K. Brown for the Children's Literature Web Guide