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October 03, 2013 - Image 40

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-10-03

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arts & entertainment

Dealing With Disaster

In a new book, the only full-time American correspondent in
Haiti during 2010's deadly earthquake details his experiences.


IN: What approach did you take with
your book?

Suzanne Chessler

Contributing Writer


hen television and radio inter-
viewers seek commentary on
conditions in Haiti, they often
turn to Jonathan M. Katz, author of The
Big Truck That Went By: How the World
Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a
Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan; $26).
Katz, a full-time correspondent for the
Associated Press assigned to Haiti at the
time of the monumental earthquake in
2010, readily addresses his own experi-
ences and what he witnessed during and
after the disaster.
This year's Jewish Book Fair partici-
pants will get to hear about the book and
ask questions about it during Katz's local
appearance, currently scheduled for
Sunday, Nov. 17.
In his book, the journalist looks into the
use of relief donations, continuing crisis
conditions, cause of the cholera epidemic
and what failures can teach about dealing
with future disasters.
Katz, 33, currently traveling to discuss
his book and also completing freelance
assignments, earned bachelor's and mas-
ter's degrees at Northwestern University
before accepting correspondent posts
in Israel, the Dominican Republic and
Mexico for the Associated Press.
The 2010 recipient of the Medill Medal
for Courage in Journalism and the 2012
winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-
Progress Award, he also has worked for the
Congressional Quarterly in Washington,
In a phone conversation from his North
Carolina home, Katz talked about his book
and investigative experiences with the
Detroit Jewish News:


Nate Bloom

Special to the Jewish News

At The Movies
Zaytoun, directed by Israeli filmmaker
Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride, Lemon
Tree), 59, opens Friday, Oct. 4, at the

Maple Theater. A story of survival,
reconciliation and
friendship, the film is
set in 1982 amid the
Lebanese Civil War
as Israeli pilot Yoni,
played by Stephen
Dorff (his father is
Jewish), 40, is shot
down over Beirut


October 3 • 2013


JK: I wanted to bring together a lot of
different elements and approaches to the
narrative. There's the daily reportage and
a lot of investigative reporting. There's also
a personal narrative with my friends and
fiancee. I hadn't read a book that does it
the same way.

IN: What do you hope readers take
away from it?

in a complete way would be to write on a
larger scale.

IN: Does the book serve any Jewish-
based, ethical issues?

JK: I think there is a hint of tikkun
olam because we're talking about a coun-
try where there's just tons of work to be
done to get people into the basic state of
human dignity.
It's a Jewish attitude, at least the way I
understand it, to look and say that this is
a place where we're obligated
to do something. Not only is it
not being done, but it often is

JK: In putting readers into a world
they're not familiar with,
I hope that they are able
to see the complexity of
i Tr
6 v g ent HY
situations that involve
real people with historical
JN: Are there any issues
roots in Haiti.
that you can relate to your
M. Ka tes
There were a lot of
family history?
assumptions made by [out-
JK: When my family
siders] who didn't know
came to the United States
what was going on but had
from Russia, they were
° t, 11 Iv
tremendous power to affect
working in low-paying,
what was happening, and a lot
sweatshop jobs, [such
of the decisions were bad.
as the ones brought to
I'm hoping that readers of
Haiti]. My relatives were
my book will have more of an
able to move on for a whole bunch of
appreciation of the need to stop, step back reasons that are not present in Haiti.
and understand before getting involved.
They were able to get credit extended
to them and start businesses. They were
IN: What made you decide to write the able to take advantage of all kinds of infra-
structure in New York, such as the City
JK: I think the story had to be told. I
College of New York and the subway to get
felt a piece of nonfiction narrative was the
them there.
most useful way to tell it and something I
These types of infrastructure are not
could do.
available in Haiti, nor are the core under-
If I were writing [separate] articles, they lying features of governing.
would be between 800 and 2,000 words,
There are many reasons infrastructure
and every time, I would have to include
doesn't exist, but one of them is the way
a brief history of the last couple hundred
aid has been administered over the last 30
years in Haiti to bring readers up to speed. or 40 years.
I knew that the only way to tell the story
People in Haiti don't have what made it

row World




and taken prisoner by inhabitants of a
Palestinian refugee camp.
Among the captors is 10-year-old
Fahed, whose father obsessively tends
to his prized, but sickly olive tree,
refusing to replant it until they return
to their "ancestral land." Despite his
deep-rooted hatred for Yoni, Fahed
realizes he can use him to get past
the border and into "Palestine" to
plant his father's olive tree. The two
embark on a harrowing and danger-
ous journey.
Parkland, opening on Friday, Oct. 4,
weaves together the stories of some
real-life people whose lives were
changed in the immediate aftermath

of President Kennedy's assassina-
tion: Secret Service agents, hospital
staff who tried to save JFK's life, and
Abraham Zapruder (1905-1970), the
Dallas clothing manufacturer who
filmed the famous clip of the presi-
dent's motorcade. The film is directed
and written by Peter Landesman, 48,
a former New York Times journalist.

TV Notes

The HBO original film Muhammad
Ali's Greatest Fight premieres at 8

p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5. In 1971, Ali's
long legal battle over his refusal to be
drafted into the Army on the grounds
that he was a conscientious objector

Author Jonathan M. Katz

possible for the great-grandson of sweat-
shop workers to be writing a book about
what's going on right now. What's being
done is taking advantage of people and not
leaving them with the [necessary] tools.

JN: How have your experiences in
Haiti affected your outlook toward
responses to other disasters?

JK: This has put me in dialogue with
people who work in other parts of the
world. Things that I saw happening in
Haiti apply to other situations as well.
I was at a donors conference raising
money for Somalia and saw the same
kinds of headlines about the amount of
money raised and the same kind of rheto-
ric about a new day for Somalia.
One of my colleagues at the BBC point-
ed out how much money was pledged for
Somalia, and I imagine, [as happened in
Haiti], we're going to see not very much of
it coming through.

Jonathan M. Katz is scheduled to
speak at this year's Jewish Book Fair
at 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov.17. There is no
charge. Check out our special Book
Fair package in the Oct. 31 issue of
the Detroit Jewish News.

(C.O.) finally made it to the Supreme
Court. Brit Stephen Frears, 72,
directs (he did not learn until he was
in his 20s that he was Jewish).
Barry Levinson, 71, takes a break
from his directing career to play
Justice Potter Stewart, with Harris
Yulin, 75, as Justice William 0.
Douglas and Fritz
Weaver, 87, as
Justice Hugo Black.
Weaver, a Quaker,
was himself a C.O.
during World War
II. His wife, actress

Rochelle Oliver, 76,


is Jewish.

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