My efforts to digitize contextualize, and interpret my father's photo album from the Allied Occupation of Japan (1945-1952) have evolved well past a "pandemic project." Happily, I've managed to condense what originally felt like an essay collection into one, long-form photo essay with a working title of "Someone Swimming Somewhere." The photo here of Sgt. E.W. Matteson floating in the Pacific Ocean at the precise midpoint of his life is the source of that title. If my wish is granted, this work will rise to the top of have an unusual chapbook competition to be judged in the fall.

I've also returned to the life & work of Jacques Roumain (1907-1944). I don't know about other biographers, but as I researched his life, I created a file of ideas and projects to develop later "when time permits." Among them, my English translations of his poetry are high on the list.

"Patti Marxsen has done a great service to Caribbean scholarship by giving us one of the most sensitive and complete accounts of Roumain’s powerful life…. Thanks to works such as Marxsen’s illuminating book, we can rest assured that the story of this extraordinary life will be known in Haiti and beyond for generations to come."

from the Foreword by Matthew J. Smith
Professor in Caribbean History, University of the West Indies, Mona
Author of "Red and Black in Haiti: Radicalism, Conflict, and Political Change 1934–57"


"Appealingly written and meticulously organized, Patti Marxsen's biography is an enormously valuable contribution to our understanding of one of Haiti's most important writers and widest ranging intellectual nomads. May it bring Jacques Romain the Anglophone audience he deserves!"

Madison Smartt Bell
Professor of Creative Writing, Goucher College
Author if a three-volume historical novel of the Haitian Revolution (1997–2007) and "Toussaint Louverture: A Biography," among others.


"Marxsen's excellent prose does justice to an iconic, monumental figure, Haiti's renaissance man who changed the course of his country's intellectual life, Jacques Roumain. It is also a keen analysis of the Haitian phenomenon, unique in its formation, yet with universal portent. This is the biography we yearned for. A superb book."

Patrick Bellegarde-Smith
Professor Emeritus of Africology, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Author of "Haiti: The Breached Citadel" and "In the Shadow of Powers: Dantès Bellegarde in Haitian Social Thought," among others.

“In a new and thoughtful examination of the life of Helene Schweitzer, Patti Marxsen presents us with a picture of a resourceful, intelligent, independent-minded woman. Drawing on new primary material in French and German, as well as recent publications, she gives us an account of this remarkable woman, which is not compromised by being written in the shadow of her iconic husband. At once absorbing, moving and thought-provoking.”
—James Carleton Paget, senior lecturer in New Testament studies, University of Cambridge

“As Marxsen makes clear in this readable study, Helene was a forceful humanitarian who played a significant role in the development and continuation of the Schweitzer Hospital in Gabon. Based on new primary sources this is the first English language study of a woman whose international life offers new insights into a forgotten woman and her times. Helene Schweitzer did indeed have a life of her own that is worth remembering.”
—Jean H. Baker, Bennett-Harwood Professor of History at Goucher College and author of Mary Todd Lincoln: A Biography and Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion

“Patti Marxsen’s book finally gives Helene the attention in America that she deserves. Helene Schweitzer Bresslau does not only deserve our attention as an equal partner to Albert Schweitzer, but also as a unique and independent personality.”
—From the Afterword by Verena Mühlstein M.D., author of Helene Schweitzer Bresslau: Ein Leben für Lambarene

“Patti Marxsen’s book will challenge Schweitzer scholars to further consider the role and importance of Helene Schweitzer in the partnership and in the Schweitzer legacy. There is a renewed appreciation of Albert Schweitzer, and a revision and augmentation of previous accounts of his life and work that left his wife Helene in the background will be of interest to Schweitzer scholars as well as women’s studies scholars. I urge anyone interested in the legacy of Albert Schweitzer and his remarkable wife to read this book. It is a great advance in Schweitzer scholarship.”
—A.G. Rud, Distinguished Professor, Washington State University Department of Teaching and Learning and author of Albert Schweitzer's Legacy for Education: Reverence for Life

“Patti Marxsen’s biography of Helene Schweitzer not only reflects scrupulous research but Marxsen’s remarkable story-telling ability and feminist point of view as she “travels with” her subject, creating a lively context for the woman who now emerges from Albert Schweitzer’s shadow.” Leita Kaldi, Former Administrator, Hospital Albert Schweitzer, Haiti. Author of In the Valley of Atibon and Roller Skating in the Desert. Book Club Facilitator, U.S. National Committee for UN Women. Book Critic, Peace Corps Worldwide.

“These chapters take us inside the world of this complex woman. More importantly, they allow us to see how her drive to be an agent of change influenced Schweitzer, helping him move beyond the intellectual pursuits of music, theology, and philosophy to become a man of action.”
—From the Forewords by Sylvia Stevens-Edouard, Executive Director, Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (Boston)

"A remarkable achievement, this compelling, meticulously researched biography restores Helene Schweitzer Bresslau to her proper stature in history as a modern professional woman of tremendous accomplishment, who, against the odds, fashioned an independent life for herself. Marxsen’s discovery of new sources, combined with her innovative use of existing scholarship, allows her to bring the life of this extraordinary risk-taking woman out of relative obscurity. Through Marxsen’s graceful, admiring prose Helene Schweitzer finally has 'a life of her own.'"
—Kathleen B Jones, professor emerita of Women’s Studies, San Diego State University and author of Diving for Pearls: A Thinking Journey with Hannah Arendt

"These are truly marvelous stories-- steeped in the mystery, the terror, and beauty of Haitian life." -Madison Smartt Bell

"Intertwining the stories of Haitians and the foreigners who wish to help them, Marxsen moves us seamlessly between these two worlds, joining them through tales of love, of spirituality and magic, of connections forged and lost. Writing with both compassion and unflinching honesty, Marxsen’s stories allow us a glimpse into the true heart of Haiti." -Midge Raymond, author of "Forgetting English"

"Every story in Tales from the Heart of Haiti is beautifully realized. The distinct sense of place that informs the collection is wonderfully done, but it's more than that. As I read this book, I thought of Aristotle's rhetorical scheme of inventio (gathering the author's materials), dispositio (arrangement of those materials) and elocutio (the dressing up, through various tropes, of the material. Patti Marxsen hits on all three parts of the process extremely well." -Norman McMillan, Professor Emeritus, University of Montevallo (Alabama) and author of "Distant Son: An Alabama Boyhood."

"Marxsen's Tales from the Heart of Haiti illustrate the nation's sinister undercurrent, along with the naïve or deliberate exploitation of Haitians by foreign do-gooders who compound their miseries. But Marxsen soars above the political mire with descriptions of the country's natural beauty and honest, if sometimes heartbreaking, stories of human passions and spirituality." -Summary of the UNIFEM/USNC Gulf Coast Book Club of Sarasota, Florida

"Patti Marxsen is the perfect guide for this fascinating journey through the history of France and its empire, exploring its varied legacies as she expertly brings together past and present." -Laurent Dubois, author of "Avengers of the New World: The History of the Haitian Revolution" and "A Colony of Citizens: Revolution & Slave Emancipation in the French Caribbean, 1787-1804"

“This short book of just 122 pages is enchanting …a charming, evocative, thought-provoking and occasionally witty piece of travel writing in the best traditions of that genre.”
Stephen A. Royle, Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, Book Review Editor of ISLAND STUDIES JOURNAL

"Imaginative. Gracefully written. Passionate. Knowledgeable. We choose to follow this particular guide because she is, of course, curious and well-informed but, more important, she is original." Helen Marie Casey, author of "Fragrance Upon His Lips" and "Inconsiderate Madness"

"The harmony is captivating and the essays reminiscent of Montaigne's comment, 'My style and my mind alike go rambling.' " -Susan Tiberghien, author of "One Year to a Writing Life, Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer's Art and Craft."

"Island Journeys is an essential addition to the existing literature of travel and place." -Michael Steinberg, Founding Editor, Fourth Genre and author of the award-winning "Still Pitching"(2003).


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