From hand-crafts to crafting news: The tale of Kathie Klarreich
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Kathie Klarreich traveled to Haiti to find hand-crafts that would have been sold through a non-profit organization in 1986. As she detailed in her book Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Vodou, and Civil Strife in Haiti, practically overnight Klarreich became a journalist.
“I was having a drink in front of the palace when I watched
a coup d‘etat,” Klarreich said. “Like a good Jewish girl, I called my mom.”
That was the day when military forces overthrew former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Surprised by the scene, Klarreich called her mother to ask for advice on what she should do. According to Klarreich, her mother told her to either “come home or get involved.”
“If it were me, I would have gotten involved,” said Klarreich’s mother, Sue. “[Kathie] wasn’t the kind to run from danger.”
Klarreich moved to Haiti, learned Creole and married a Haitian musician. Yet,she did not know how she would participate in the history of that nation.
A friend of Klarreich living in San Francisco, California suggested one day that she prepare stories for the San Francisco Chronicle
and Pacifica news radio. The San Francisco Chronicle did not publish her story but the news radio program did broadcast it.
From then on,Klarreich has provided stories for NPR, The New York Times, ABC and CNN. Today,she lives in Miami as she continues to report about Haiti for TIME magazine, the Miami Herald and The Christian Science Monitor.
“I find her very strong, charismatic and brave,” said Steve Stein, the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Miami. “That’s part of her
Despite having written stories for various news organizations, Klarreich still felt a certain difficulty to have news organizations to pay attention to stories from Haiti.
“Usually, [Haiti] is only covered for really terrible, sexy stories,” Klarreich said. However, she also attributed the lack of media coverage on days when things are only “muddling along” as well as competing factors which include limited space or
time and the difficult access to sources.
Klarreich mentioned that she was at an advantage for having an understanding of the culture as well as the sources. She knew who would be open to give information and what the more quiet sources would say.
Being an American, Klarreich believes, was also an advantage for her because of a certain respect she received. However, as a journalist, she was threatened and held at gunpoint.
The violent state Haiti was in during the 1990’s caused for Klarreich to move back to the U.S. for fear of her son’s safety. She recently returned last summer with her son
for a visit.
Other topics Klarreich mentioned she placed in her book were the overall sentiment of the Haitian people towards their government, the conditions of the country under
presidents Aristide and René Préval and the “day-long plight to buy one cold beer.”
Kate Ramsey a professor at UM’s history department who read Madame Dread said the book was wonderful because of “the way she seamlessly interweaves her memoir with the momentous chapters of Haitian history.”
Klarreich hopes that Haiti will improve and people who read her book will be encouraged to follow dreams that may seem out of their reach. Using her own example, Klarreich said she spent 10 years to finish her book but that she is happy with the final result.