Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American

Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American

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by Jean-Robert Cadet

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African slaves in Haiti emancipated themselves from French rule in 1804 and created the first independent black republic in the Western Hemisphere. But they reinstituted slavery for the most vulnerable members of Haitian society-the children of the poor-by using them as unpaid servants to the wealthy. These children were-and still are-restavecs, a French term whose


African slaves in Haiti emancipated themselves from French rule in 1804 and created the first independent black republic in the Western Hemisphere. But they reinstituted slavery for the most vulnerable members of Haitian society-the children of the poor-by using them as unpaid servants to the wealthy. These children were-and still are-restavecs, a French term whose literal meaning of "staying with" disguises the unremitting labor, abuse, and denial of education that characterizes the children's lives. In this memoir, Jean-Robert Cadet recounts the harrowing story of his youth as a restavec, as well as his inspiring climb to middle-class American life. He vividly describes what it was like to be an unwanted illegitimate child "staying with" a well-to-do family whose physical and emotional abuse was sanctioned by Haitian society. He also details his subsequent life in the United States, where, despite American racism, he put himself through college and found success in the Army, in business, and finally in teaching.

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University of Texas Press
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What People are Saying About This

Alex Dupuy
This autobiography of a young man who escaped the most foreboding of circumstances and raised himself up by his own bootstraps will appeal to a wide range of readers.... His courage in dealing with and overcoming a wretched existence in Haiti and the dehumanizing effects of racism in the United States will stimulate much reflection on the nature of these two societies.
Alex Dupuy, author of Haiti in the World Economy and Haiti in the New World Order

Meet the Author

Jean-Robert Cadet is addressing the restavek issue with the Haitian government and prominent citizens to affect change within Haiti. He raises awareness of the issue by speaking at colleges and universities across the United States and to government organizations around the world. He founded the Jean R. Cadet Organization to bring an end to child slavery in Haiti through increased global awareness of the issue while also providing immediate relief to children trapped in the restavek system.

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Restavec: From Haitian Slave Child to Middle-Class American 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wasn't even through the third page, and already I had started crying! To read the emotional and physical abuse, as well as picturing scenes made me realize what Jean-Robert Cadet went through. To not be loved by your own father and not to know your mother is something many children have to live with. Both my mother and father are from Haiti, and as I told my mom this, she could only nod her head and tell me that things like this happen all the time and are still happening. She also told me that if Mr. Cadet's mother hadn't died, he wouldn't have gone through such an ordeal. My parents as well as many other Haitian parents remind their kids how lucky and fortunate we are because we attend good schools, have food, shelter, and clothes on our back. There are still many children in Haiti going through what the author went through. To read about how he continued his education, and received his Masters was inspirational. I strongly reccomend this book to anyone and everyone!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The woman behind the counter of a bookstore in Miami's Little Haiti suggested this book to me. This is a harrowing account of a poor boy's tortured youth and his escape to the USA. Mr. Cadet is so honest about his life and the pain and anger he has felt. He really lets you inside. I think this is an important book becouse childhood slavery still exists. Not everyone is as good or as clever as Mr. Cadet, so not everyone can escape from slavery or the personal demons that followed that escape. Mr Cadet triumphs!! this book and have it made into a feature film!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Restavec was by far the best book I've ever read. I was shocked and disgusted by the treatment the poor main character experienced at the hands of adults. I've always been proud to be Haitian, but this is a part of my culture I am not proud of.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I only wish it was all fiction.... Words cannot express what I felt while reading this amazing book! Jean-Robert Cadet.......lived the real life of 'Ti Santanize' by Maurice Sixto(the greatest haitian story teller) as a restavec and made it out stronger, brighter and wiser......for that, I have a great deal of respect for this man! I want to meet this heroic man 'Jean-Robert Cadet'!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down. This is a bitter-sweet story about a man's life. He is first a 'restavec' or slave to the person who is looking after him. He was abused mentally and physicially. This book is interesting because it truely happened and is a person's point of view
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a must read! This book sheds some light on the issue of color in the Haitian society. Haiti is the poorest(black)nation in the Western hemisphere. However, it uses its different shades of blackness to segregate it's people. Haiti can not survive as a nation unless it recognizes that blancs, and molatos are black. The people who embrace the 'Klan' philosophy must be falling over laughing. It appears as if the author was compelled to describe the complexion of each new character he introduced to the story. I was shocked to see how the color stigma is embedded in the Haitian psyche. The institution of Restavecism should be a crime against humanity because humans do not treat other humans this way.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think that this is a must read. I never knew how lucky I was and how hard he had it. Jean Robert Cadet used to be my teacher at Madeira. He is a wonderful man and the world should read his tragic tale of overcomming tragedy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Restavec, a young Haitian child chained into the life of a slave: This was Jean-Robert Cadet. This book is a great insight to the life that many children lived through and still live through in Haiti. The words and phrases jean Robert Cadet uses gives you an amazing insight into a world that most of us have never known. The kind of emptiness he describes makes you feel the emotions he had and think the way he thought. ¿I wanted to establish a connection that would fill the void in my chest.¿ His language is exceedingly powerful and makes a strong impact on you. He describes in great detail every person he came across, every job he had and every place he wen. The way the emptiness ties into the book is ingenious. ¿Although the birth of my son adam filled the void in my chest, I still became clinically depressed at times,¿ This book keeps you secured into the subject of Restavecs forever.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr Cadet's story has pierced my heatr. I could not just read. I had to find some one to discuss the contents of this unbelievable story as I read on. For days on end I felt as though I was in a long horrible dream. Every once in a while I kept glancing at his date of birth, just to keep reminding myself that it was a real situation. This must be made into a movie. Thank you Mr. Cadet for your courage and your sacrifice. I personally identify with some of your experiences, not as a restavec, but as a fatherless child, hungry for knowledge and education, growing up with illiterate grand parents who had absolutely no interist in such fine qualities. To your God-blessed wife, Cindy, I salute you mam for possessing the courage,commitment and, most of all, patience to stand by his side through it all. We must get together, as a people, to put an end to such a system. Congratulations and...keep on writing Sir.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book and wept. Wept for all the children in this world as well as for myself and son who can never imagine existing in such a world. Jean-Robert Cadet, I applaude you for allowing us to enter your world. For never giving up on Humanity, for perserving the gift of life, for making a modern world aware that these atrocities still exist. My grandmothers silence is broken. For this, I Thank you.