Summary: Taste of Salt is a story about a young teen in Haiti during an important political time for the country. The young teen, Djo, tells his story of the years leading to the ultimate political uprising and installation of a democracy and president of Haiti. Djo has had an interesting perspective. He lived with the future president for several years and, though young, was a leader of political change in the country. When Djo finds himself in a hospital bed, struggling for his life, a young girl, Jeremie, is sent to record his story. As she listens to his almost lifeless words, she finds herself mesmerized and reminded of her own story. Together their lives retold offer a painfully detailed depiction of Haiti's struggle toward freedom in the 1980s.
Reflections: This book does not gloss over the ugly and horrific details that political uprisings and revolutions may bring on. I love the way these complicated times are told through the eyes of two young teens. Their experiences and their age offer a unique perspective to the situation. Instead of looking back at the revolution from an outsider's view, we are able to get into the nitty gritty of the war. Often times concepts of war are politics seem foreign to students. By learning about them through a young person's perspective, they may be able to relate to the concepts and characters . The author also does a tremendous job of capturing the voices of the young people. She writes the way Djo may have really spoken. Though this might be difficult for students to understand at first, ultimately it beautifully shows differences in dialects. I think this would be a great read aloud for 5th or 6th graders or an independent read for middle schoolers, depending on reading level.
How would I use this book?: This book would be great to open up discussion about war and politics. In a TC or related curriculum, this book could fit into many units. The development of the characters is done beautifully, and it is a good example of perspective and storytelling. What I think this book captures best, however, is the story of a young boy struggling to make a change in his country. Although he is poor, uneducated, and young, he still works hard for social change. And in the end, he does make a difference for his country. I think this would be a great book for students to read and talk about, thinking about ways in which they could make a change in their country, community, house, school, etc. In addition, this book opens up concepts of different cultures and ways of living.
Domains of Social Justice: 1.) Self-love and Acceptance: Students will read about an example of two young people who, despite coming from different upbringings, find ways to relate to each other and love each other. Also, this book is great for students with Haitian background or Dominican since it shows both sides of each culture (mostly Haitian). 2.) Respect for others: Students see that it is impossible to judge someone just from where they are from. 3.) Exploring Issues of Social Justice: Racism, classism, and ageism are all confronted in this story. 4.) Social Movements and Social Change: Djo and his crew struggle and risk their lives for social change in this story. Jeremie also does her part, even though she comes from an educated and conservative background. 5.) Taking Social Action: Djo is educated about politics and uses his knowledge to take social action. He advertises for the future president, and he doesn't back down. There is also a clear view of what the future president does to get to his position, preaching concepts of truth and action.