Stroll into Libreri Mapou in the heart of Little Haiti on a Saturday night, and you'll hear the sounds of Port-au-Prince. It's Zetwal Kreyòl, a folkloric Haitian band led by Pierre Antoine Jules, rehearsing, with Jules strumming an acoustic guitar along with Willer Fils-Aimé (baritone), Alex Toussaint (bass/baritone), and Reimsky Toussaint (tenor). That's exactly what this iconic bookstore brings to Little Haiti — a vital link to the vibrant island whose cultural home in Miami is under ever-greater threat of gentrification. The beating heart of the bookstore is its founder, Jan Mapou, a Miami icon in his own right. Mapou came here after spending time in jail in the late '60s for defying Papa Doc Duvalier's orders against speaking Kreyol on the airwaves. As befits a man willing to do hard time to fight for his culture, Mapou has spent more than four decades in Miami celebrating Haitian culture by writing plays and poetry and running the art group Sosyete Koukouy. His Little Haiti bookstore remains one of the Magic City's most authentic bastions of literary freedom. In the front room, the shelves are always stocked with Kreyol- and English-language works related to Haitian culture and literature. Miami's own Edwidge Danticat's portfolio is available here. In an ever-changing Miami, Libreri Mapou keeps Haitian culture alive through stories rooted in unity and love.
Readers' choice: Books & Books