Are you looking for a children’s book about the Haitian Revolution for one of your younger siblings, and perhaps from your son or daughter? Or perhaps your godchild, nephew or niece? Frantz Derenoncourt has just the picture book just for you: Haiti the First Black Republic, released through Thorobred Books and illustrated by Eminence System.
A Brooklyn-born and bred father of two, Frantz now lives in Maryland.
Kreyolicious: Tell us more about yourself and your book.
I currently work in the real estate industry but my passion is Haitian history—more specifically the Haitian Revolution. I have always been inspired by the story of enslaved people from a different side of the world forming an army and defeating their oppressors to take over the colony. In my opinion, it is the greatest black achievement of all time. As a kid, I didn’t know this story but I feel I could’ve used it to gain a sense of pride in my self which was lacking at the time. It wasn’t necessarily a cool thing to be Haitian growing up in the early 80’s. I wanted to make sure my eight-year old son had that black pride instilled in him so I started telling him stories about the revolution and the revolutionaries. He became intrigued and it led me to writing a children friendly version of the Haitian Revolution.
Kreyolicious: The story of Haiti’s independence has been told so many times. When you were writing your book, was it difficult to come up with a new approach?
There are many books written about the Haitian Revolution out there. However, many of them are 2-4 inches thick and the masses of people, especially children, will never open it up to read it. My approach with this book was slightly different from any that I have seen because I wrote it at a second grade level with very colorful illustrations. Also, the book is only 33 pages long because I know the attention span of some people is not very long. I know there are many children-friendly books available of the American Revolution and the “Founding Fathers” of America. I wanted to do something similar but for black children. I feel that it is important for young black kids to be able to appreciate the achievements of their ancestors. Also, since I have been on this journey, I realized that not many grown people know about the story of Haiti’s independence. Having the story in a short form is just as effective educating adults as it is educating children.
Kreyolicious: What was the research process like for the book?
It’s funny because way before I had any thoughts of writing a book, I was completely engulfed in the writings of Haitian history scholars such as C.L.R James, Laurent Dubois, Robert Korngold, and many others. I read many books just because I was interested in the story. I only came up with the idea to write a children-friendly version of it because of my son. When it was time to sit down and write the story, I already knew so much that the story didn’t take that long to complete. Of course, I went back and reviewed and edited and made many revisions but I think this version came out pretty decent.
Kreyolicious: Do you stay connected to Haiti?
I don’t stay as connected as I would like to. A portion of every book sold does go to a non-profit organization named Color of Hope that builds libraries and educates the youth in Haiti. Truthfully, I’ve only been to Haiti twice in my life. I’m hoping to go again soon for an extended period of time to get back in touch with my roots and go on as many historical tours as possible. My grandmother and many aunts, uncles, and cousins still live in Haiti so I have plenty of family there.
Kreyolicious: What’s next for you?
I want to shine a different light on Haiti. Haiti is often referred to as “the Poorest Country in the Western Hemisphere” and too many people believe it. I’m of the opinion that Haiti is one of the richest places in the Western Hemisphere. If it weren’t [so] why is the US, France, and Canada so much into the political affairs of Haiti? To understand what is happening to Haiti now, one must first understand what happened to Haiti in the past, and that is my mission. I also want to bring light to the black heroes that seldom get mentioned. This book is the first of a series. Coming this spring, my next release will be a children-friendly biography of Makandal—a very instrumental revolutionary that most do not know about. I’m looking forward to introducing him to the world.