Roxane Gay’s parents are immigrants from Haiti, and the title of her engaging short story collection Ayiti is the Creole word for Haiti. Gay grew up in Nebraska.
Some of the stories in this collection deal with the immigrant experience in the U.S. “About My Father’s Accent” is a very short piece about American-raised kids reacting to an accent that “sounds like Port-au-Prince, the crowded streets, the blaring horns, the smell of grilled meat and roasting corn, the heat, thick and still” (9). “Voodoo Child” is a funny story about a college student who pretends to know voodoo to freak out her roommate. “Cheap, Fast, and Filling” concerns a recent immigrant trying to survive on very little money.
But most of the collection is devoted to stories set in Haiti, although there is usually an American connection. The longest story, “Sweet on the Tongue,” alternates between a U.S. setting and an extended flashback in Haiti where the main character had a devastating, life-changing experience. The American-born narrator of “In the Manner of Water or Light” tells the story of her mother’s conception in Haiti at a time of terrible violence. The Haitian couple in “A Cool, Dry Place” is planning to flee to Florida.
Gay’s writing style is simple and straightforward, allowing her characters’ voices and personalities to shine through. This entertaining, absorbing, and thought-provoking collection, first published in 2011 by Artistically Declined Press, was reissued this year by Grove Press.