This illuminating book gathers together the best of TIME’s photos from the days after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, alongside essays by TIME writers and others. Wilentz’s essay for the book, “In the Land of Memory,” accompanied by evocative black-and-white photographs from Haiti’s tumultuous past, offers an explanation to the often posed but rarely answered question: Why is Haiti the way it is? It also provides a tragic but forward-looking examination of the impact of the earthquake on the country, and its traumatic implications for the people of Haiti.
“Even what is lost is not entirely lost. You lose the palace, but not the memory of the palace; you lose the child, the mother, the grandparents, the husband, but not the memory of those people. Over time, memories come to replace the people and places, inadequately, but nonetheless. Parents pass down the memory to children, or aunts to nephews, or friends to friends’ children, and on through generations. Books guard and concentrate those memories, and art does, too, and photographs, scattered throughout the world. In Managua, another city that suffered a terrible earthquake, people still give memory directions: take me past the square where the old oak tree used to be, then go left at the corner where that church was. Reality is fleeting and what seems substantial is not really so. We know this in some way every day as we walk around doing laundry and driving to work and picking up kids. We know that life is precious and every moment valuable. But nothing can ever bring this understanding of life’s ephemeral quality home so quickly, so solidly, and so absolutely as this utter destruction, wrought in less than a minute’s time.”