Journalist and author Amy Wilentz first traveled to Haiti in 1986, as the regime of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier began to crumble and fall. She witnessed a revolution. "I saw the end of dictatorship," she explains. "You felt it was liberation, and it was like the French Revolution, and it was terribly exciting, and I was hooked."
Today, more than 25 years later, Wilentz reflects on the unique nation that has made her career in her new book, "Farewell, Fred Voodoo." Fred Voodoo, Wilentz explains, "was the reporters' joking name…for the Haitian man (or woman) on the street."
Her recent book is, in part, a response to the media's coverage of Haiti as Fred Voodoo in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. Wilentz writes that as she watched news about the earthquake from her Los Angeles home, "I kept thinking of Fred Voodoo; that's how the television reporters were talking as they stood in their khakis and their work boots amid the rubble… You didn't need to say Fred's name in order to summon the sentiment, which is a kind of condescension filled with pity."
She continues: "The objectification of the Haitians' victimization — that's one aspect of the Fred Voodoo syndrome. How beautiful the Haitians look in their misery; they always do. You can count on them."
Wilentz discusses the complicated aid structures in Haiti before and after the earthquake, how Haiti's unique history continues to influence the country's economic and political systems, and her own complex relationship with the country.