The Big Truck That Went By How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1/8/2013
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press

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In the aftermath of the devastating 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, there was an outpouring of support and aid from countries around the world. Yet, two years after the quake, seemingly little has changed as the country continues to suffer from widespread poverty, crippled infrastructure, and a cholera epidemic. A common Haitian street slang refers to "the big truck," the half-hearted efforts by the "blancs" who arrive to help but wind up bypassing the victims. In The Big Truck That Went By, award-winning author Jonathan Katz ties together the two crises that continue to cripple Haiti: the aftermath of the earthquake and the endemic government corruption. In the course of bearing witness to the most devastating of tragedies in one of the world's most dysfunctional countries, Katz questions why with so much money being poured into the devastated nation it doesn't improve conditions for the people. He takes a hard look at the efforts of aid organizations, Haitian politics and mismanagement, and at the systemic problems of a country that has no reliable infrastructure. From Bill Clinton, Sean Penn, and former President Francois Duval, to ordinary Haitians who are trying to survive amid the rubble, we get an on the ground portrait of what life is like in the former pearl of the Caribbean. And we learn how the United Nations, in an effort to help, actually caused the first cholera epidemic in the country in over a century that killed over 7,500 people. Asking the hard questions about Western aid, this is a vividly told narrative of how the affluent nations can help the less fortunate in a smarter way.

Author Biography

Jonathan M. Katz was the 2010 recipient of the Medill Medal of Courage in Journalism and the 2012 winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award for this book. He wrote and edited for the Associated Press for eight years in about a dozen countries and territories, three and a half years of which he spent living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He was the only full-time American reporter on the ground when the earthquake struck. Katz is often featured as an expert on Haiti on television and radio.

Table of Contents

“A top-notch account of Haiti's recent history, including the January 2010 earthquake, from the only American reporter stationed in the country at the time …An eye-opening, trailblazing exposé.”--Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A brilliant piece of writing… the best description of living through the Haiti quake I’ve read anywhere.”--Jonathan Alter

“Katz is a great storyteller who enmeshes the reader in a lively web of history, incident, and examples of humanity pushing through disaster, hard luck, iniquity, and triumph to muck it up all over again.”--The judges of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award

“Beautifully-written, brave, and riveting, The Big Truck That Went By tells the devastating story of the post-earthquake reconstruction effort in Haiti. Weaving together his personal experiences with the knowledge gained from his intensive investigative report, Katz offers us an autopsy of a global relief effort gone wrong. But the book also offers us a moving portrait of the courage, humor, and vision of the Haitians he worked with, offering a glimpse of the possibilities for a different future. Anyone seeking to understand Haiti’s current situation, as well as the broader impasses of our current model of aid, should read this book."--Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History

“The horror of the catastrophic Haitian earthquake of 2010, the adrenaline rush of being a reporter in the middle of dramatic events, the frustration of watching local politicians and poorly informed outsiders combine to paralyze the recovery effort, and the joy of finding love in the midst of the ruins:  it’s all here. Katz, the only American journalist on the scene when the earthquake struck, gives us unique insights into the plight of a close neighbor whose fate is vitally connected to our own.”—Jeremy Popkin, author of You Are All Free: The Haitian Revolution and the Abolition of Slavery

" Jonathan M. Katz has a passion for the truth. He has shown respect for the people of Haiti by seeking that truth throughout the earthquake and the aftermath... This is an important book, and a page-turner!" -- Mark Doyle, BBC correspondent

"With every page of Jonathan Katz's book I cringed, grr'ed and couldn't wait to turn for the next revelation. Hubris, America! Thought we could wave a magic wand and save Haiti? Non, merci. Bravo to Katz for telling the real story."--Laurie Garrett, author of I Heard the Sirens Scream

“Jonathan Katz’s strength is his unique combination of heart, history and solid reporting, brilliantly married in The Big Truck That Went By.  Readers experience the country through his personal roadmap, one that  is both sympathetic and yet sharply critical of all that could have gone right, but didn’t.”  – Kathie Klarreich, author of Madame Dread: A tale of Love, Vodou and Civil Strife in Haiti

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