Lanternfish Press

Rare & Strange

Maps Are Lines We Draw:
A Road Trip Through Haiti

March 20, 2018

“Pick up this book if you’ve never read anything about Haiti or if you’ve read everything about Haiti: Maps Are Lines We Draw forges a new path.”  
—Jen Hirt, author of Under Glass: The Girl with a Thousand Christmas Trees

Photo Credit: Sam Abrams Photography

Photo Credit: Sam Abrams Photography

"To escape this rocking weight, all I had to do—I thought—was draw my line."

After a decade of dreaming, Allison Coffelt arrived in Haiti, ready—she thought—"to learn how much she didn’t know" about the Caribbean nation. Traveling the highways with Dr. Jean Gardy Marius, founder of the public health organization OSAPO, she embarked on a life-changing journey that would weave Haiti’s proud, tumultuous history and present reality into her life forever.

Maps Are Lines We Draw explores the culture and natural beauty of the island as well as its discomfiting realities: the threat well-intentioned aid organizations can present to the local economy; the privilege that determines who gets to travel between a "here" and a distant "there" which is foreign and other; and the challenge of doing short-term good without creating long-lasting harm. 

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About the Author

Allison Coffelt lives and writes in Columbia, Missouri. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hippocampus, Oxford Public Health Magazine, the Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. She was a finalist in the 2015 Crab Orchard Review Literary Nonfiction Prize and the winner of the 2015 University of Missouri Essay Prize. She currently works as the director of education and outreach for the annual True/False Film Fest and hosts the True/False podcast.

Follow her online at or on Twitter and Instagram.

Praise for Maps Are Lines We Draw

“Coffelt avoids the ‘Haiti narrative’ trap and instead takes us on a reflective and intellectual road trip. She’s a natural at the fragmented essay form that builds and builds on small observations, all linked, all talking to each other. How lucky we are that Coffelt knew how to listen to all these whispers and collect them into this startling first book. Pick up this book if you’ve never read anything about Haiti or if you’ve read everything about Haiti: Maps Are Lines We Draw forges a new path.”  
—Jen Hirt, author of Under Glass: The Girl with a Thousand Christmas Trees

“Reflections that are steeped in humility like Ms. Coffelt’s are rare and should be required reading for people pursuing short-term work in countries like Haiti.” 
—Joia Mukherjee Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard University 

“With her striking debut, Allison Coffelt weaves an eloquent collage of history and place, politics and policy, inquiry and knowledge. The lines that mark the boundaries between here and there are removed to reveal a complex Haiti, then redrawn to assemble an even more complex notion of aid. In these pages, Coffelt’s steady gaze and sharp intellect guide and inform without faltering. There is a magnitude here, a rare ability to articulate a global empathy despite privileged origins, a stripping of the ego in order to embody the other. I’m certain her words will help us re-envision the world and reassess our individual positions in it for years to come.” 
—Angela Palm, author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here

“Early on in this thoughtful meditation, Coffelt remembers spinning a globe in her childhood room, allowing myriad representations of home and loss to pass beneath her fingers. Later, she muses, ‘What is in the remnants?’—a fair question for any human being who longs to come to terms with history and complicity. Carefully researched and humbly told, Coffelt’s memoir is a trip well worth taking.” 
—Joni Tevis, author of The World Is On Fire: Scrap, Treasure, and Songs of Apocalypse

“This book is an excellent ethics primer for any student, researcher, health care professional, volunteer, or just overall humanist who has been implicated in or is thinking of working in the context of development or relief work, with Haitians or elsewhere. Maps Are Lines We Draw is a de nite required read for our midwifery students!” 
—Kirsty Bourret, SF, MHSC Départment Profession de Sage-femme Université Laurentienne, Canada 

“Coffelt has captured not just the essence of Haiti—its strong and warm people, vibrant culture, and painful yet triumphant history—but also the truth of charitable work in Haiti, including the pitfalls and often unfortunately sordid past. Mostly, though, I enjoyed her story because of the multiple perspectives she conveys throughout the book and the insights she shares as they occurred to her during this very personal journey of discovery—those ‘Aha’ moments—not of exciting discovery but dawning awareness.” 
—Jim Grant, Executive Director, Global Birthing Home Foundation Sponsor of Maison de Naissance Birth Center 

“This book begins with another book—one Allison Coffelt read in her youth, which sketched the formlines of a country inside her and inspired the journey this book recounts so vividly. Across this compassionate and beautiful work, our narrator attempts to reconcile the ‘nearly irreconcilable’ difference between here and there. It made me wonder: Where in the world might readers of this book end up one day?” 
—Ryan Van Meter, author of If You Knew Now What I Knew Then

“I have read many books on Haiti, but Maps Are Lines We Draw is something different. It is a wonderful book and a remarkable work. I recommend all my friends and colleagues read this book.” 
—Dr. Jean Gardy Marius, Founder, Oganizasyon Sante Popilè (OSAPO)