Amy Wilentz is a tremendously talented and original writer, described by Susan Orlean as having “a sharp eye, a cool wit, and a reporter’s gumption”—all of which are handsomely on display in, Farewell, Fred Voodoo (Simon & Schuster). She writes regularly for The New Yorker and The Nation and has been the recipient of the Whiting Writers Award, the PEN Martha Albrand Non-Fiction Award, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Rosenthal Award. She teaches in the Literary Journalism program at U.C. Irvine.
Like Joan Didion’s Salvador and Rory Stewart’s The Places in Between, Farewell, Fred Voodoo vividly portrays the people of a stark place. Simply put, this is a brilliant writer’s account of a long, painful, ecstatic—and unreciprocated—affair with Haiti, a country that has long fascinated the world. Her book is about magical transformations. It is filled with raucous characters: human-rights reporters gone awry, movie stars turned into aid workers, musicians running for president, doctors turned into diplomats, a former U.S. president working as a house builder, street boys morphing into rock stars, and voodoo priests running elections. Wilentz looks back and forward at the country: at its slave plantations, its unthinkable revolutionary history, its kick-up-the-dirt guerrilla movements, its troubled relationship to the U.S., the totalitarian dynasty that ruled for decades, as well as its creative culture, and its ancient African traditions and attitudes. With Farewell, Fred Voodoo, Wilentz pursues the heart and soul of this beautiful and confounding place.
The Rainy Season, Amy Wilentz’s award-winning 1989 portrait of Haiti after the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier, was praised in the New York Times Book Review as “a remarkable account of a journalist’s transformation by her subject.” In her relationship with the country since then, Wilentz has witnessed more than one magical transformation.