May is Haitian Heritage Month
This month we celebrate Haiti's rich culture and history. May provides a platform for Haitians to share their stories and traditions with the world. It is also an opportunity to honor the legacy of Haitian ancestors and to remember the sacrifices that they made for future generations. In honor of the occasion, let’s discuss how Haitian culture impacts The Hidden Script: Enter the Kingdom.
Before we dive in, I’d like to introduce myself quickly. My name is Jemima Victor. I am a Haitian-American writer and the author of The Hidden Script series. Given such, my book is a beautiful melange of Haitian and American cultures.
The text cleverly references Haitian food, sayings, names, and nicknames throughout the story in a way that allows readers to suspend disbelief and preserve the book's high-fantasy aura.
Influences in The Hidden Script: Enter the Kingdom
The Hidden Script: Enter the Kingdom is a novel emphasizing the importance of respect and honor, which are tenants of Haitian culture. Throughout, you’ll see characters trade favors, respect elders, and honor verbal agreements, however small. Building trust is essential to communities in Haiti, especially the small towns that still cherish those traditional values.
Haiti's vibrant and colorful cuisine comes to life with allusions to dishes such as legim, (a vegetable stew) or sòs bèf ak tripay (beef tripe stew). However, you’ll find the ingredients listed instead or a visual description of the dish instead. For example, I refer to beef tripe as honey-combed meat because of its shape. It’s also one of my favorite things to eat growing up, especially in bouyon.
Typically, modern fiction books name-drop meals, culture, and pop references, but I felt took people out of the story. As much as possible, I wanted readers to feel like Ehre was its own place, with its own customs and cuisine. So even when I incorporated Haitian culture I always added a twist to it.
Two chayotes pictured above
Fun fact: Chayote is a key ingredient in cooking legim. Yet, Jemima uses it as an interjection that characters use to express shock or dismay. These references not only add depth to the story but also serve as a reminder of the importance of food in Haitian culture.
In addition to the food references, I use Haitian sayings, names, and nicknames throughout the novel. For instance, the overarching cluster of continents in which Ehre is located is called Mondlan, meaning "the world" in Haitian Creole. Similarly, the greeting juhyena is a phonetic foreshortening of the phrase ki jan ou ye la? meaning ” How are you doing.” These subtle details add authenticity to the story and subtly immerse the reader in Haitian culture.
A special homage
In conclusion, The Hidden Script: Enter the Kingdom is a beautiful tribute to Haitian heritage and culture. Through the use of subtle references to Haitian food, as well as the use of Haitian sayings, names, and nicknames, the novel immerses the reader in Haitian culture and tradition. Before you realize it, you’ll walk away with a sac full of information, and fun facts to bring up in conversation.
As we celebrate Haitian Heritage Month, let us continue to honor and celebrate the contributions of Haitians to society and remember the importance of preserving their rich cultural heritage.
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