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Mouths Don’t Speak


A Haitian immigrant in the US tries to stay emotionally afloat after the 2010 Haitian earthquake rips her family apart.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

Honorable Mention in the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature Longlist!

“In this fascinating novel about Haitian life, Ulysse beautifully braids together the struggle for personal redemption with the struggle for dignity and human rights.”
Rain Taxi Review of Books

“Ulysse gives readers a riveting story of a woman who is trying to make sense of a homescape that, if not wholly disappeared, is irrevocably altered.”

“In Drifting, Ulysse’s 2014 story collection, Haitian immigrants struggle through New York City after the 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of their county. In her debut novel, Ulysse revisits that disaster with a clearer and sharper focus. Jacqueline Florestant is mourning her parents, presumed dead after the earthquake, while her ex-Marine husband cares for their young daughter. But the expected losses aren’t the most serious, and a trip to freshly-wounded Haiti exposes the way tragedy follows class lines as well as family ones.”
The Millions, Included in the Millions‘ Most Anticipated Great First-Half 2018 Book Preview

“With lush descriptions and Creole-inflected dialogue, Katia D. Ulysse frankly and deftly writes about the nuances and class differences in Haiti. Mouths Don’t Speak explores how trauma touches us at home and abroad, wherever those places may be. This includes the experiences of the underserved kids Jacqueline teaches, American veterans, the earthquake victims, and children and their parents. Ulysse illustrates the complicated but unbreakable connections we have to family and home, and shows how privilege doesn’t necessarily keep you from tragedy.”
Shelf Awareness for Readers

“This tenderly heartbreaking novel resonates.”
Caribbean Beat Magazine

“Within minutes of starting Katia D. Ulysse’s novel—with settings in contemporary Haiti and America, and characters caught in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake of 2010—the reader is drawn deep into an intricate tale of family and relationships across cultures . . . [Main character] Jacqueline Florestant’s route is no easy one, but her story puts an individual face on the generalized social stigmas of Haiti.”
Island Origins Magazine, included in Summer Reading Roundup

“A deftly scripted and compelling read from first page to last, Mouths Don’t Speak by Katia D. Ulysse is one of those rare and inherently riveting novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf.”
Midwest Book Review

“A beautiful exploration of one woman’s quest to salvage a life that’s been destroyed by an unforeseeable natural disaster.”
Bitch, Included in BitchReads: 25 Fiction Books You Must Read in 2018

“A young mother returns to Haiti after the massive earthquake to deal with the presumed death of her parents, while her husband remains home with their young daughter and struggles with combat PTSD. A powerful story of loss, trauma, and survival.”

“Haitian-American author Katia D. Ulysse’s Mouths Don’t Speak is the powerful story of home and identity centered on a woman who returns to Haiti after a 25-year absence when an earthquake kills her parents.”
The Root

Included in Baltimore Style Magazine’s Spring Must List / Arts Preview

Included in the CBC (Canada)’s Spring Book Preview

“With sheer artistry Katia D. Ulysse delivers a captivating narrative . . . Highly recommended.”
Kaieteur News (Guyana)

Mouths Don’t Speak is a thrilling piece of literature . . . Ulysse paints a vivid geography lesson in her pages . . . Mouths Don’t Speak is a griping tale that covers the truths of many world issues.”
Telegram News

“Powerful . . . As Ulysse explores grief, she moves beyond her protagonist to consider the murky motivations and emotions of other characters. This is a harrowing, thoughtful dive into the aftermath of national and personal tragedies filtered through diasporic life.”
Publishers Weekly

“A captivating portrait of a woman plagued with worry about family and homeland, this beautifully written novel recalls Toni Morrison’s Paradise.”
Library Journal

“After the 2010 Haiti earthquake kills her parents, a woman returns to Haiti after leaving it as a child, 25 years ago. A powerful and engrossing story, this read cannot be missed.”
Bustle, included in 35 Most Anticipated Fiction Books of 2018

“Katia D. Ulysse’s relentless prose delves into the class divide made blatant in the wake of the earthquake while probing the boundaries of the struggles of being a multinational family in a time of crisis.”
World Literature Today, included in Nota Benes, November 2017

“Ulysse punctuates . . . descriptions of the lush Florestant plantation with insightful observations about strained family dynamics. The ties that bind can also constrict us.”

“[A] powerful and heartbreaking novel that delves into the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. From the start, the book captivates with vivid imagery and maintains a slow, enticing pace until the end.”

“A heartbreaking symphony of place, time, [and] relationships.”
Rebel Women Lit

“In this dark and stirring domestic novel about family, loss, and mental health . . . Ulysse expertly captures the grief of expats witnessing a tragedy from afar, while also critiquing the globetrotting 24/7 news cycle that feeds off disaster porn.”
Atticus Review

“A beautiful reminder that the obstacles we face are not who we are; rather, they make us who we are.”
Tulsa Book Review

“This novel is a candid exploration of what forces live in the house shared by grief and hope, and what richly unsettling terrain we uncover when we try to go home.”
—Paper Based Bookshop, included on the Staff Blog

“A phenomenal writer.”
Edwidge Danticat, author of Claire of the Sea Light

“Ulysse is an intense writer, bringing her readers into the emotions of her characters . . . This a powerful story.”
Me, You, and Books

“With grace and elegance, Katia D. Ulysse explores the implications of privilege and inaction, of inadequacy and otherness, of trauma and emotional isolation, and the pervasive ways that turmoil and loss corrode the lives of the individuals involved. Mouths Don’t Speak is a gem in the way it tackles difficult subjects and questions without answers.”
—M.J. Fièvre, author of A Sky the Color of Chaos

“Katia D. Ulysse is a writer of great power and passion, now delivering her most potent work to date. Mouths Don’t Speak is a story of annihilation and redemption—of a more harrowing journey back from the abyss than anyone who has not read it could possibly imagine. There are those who believe that a book can be a reposwa, in which a spirit may dwell, as in a grotto, tree, or spring. If that is true, then the spirit living in this book must be a very great one.
—Madison Smartt Bell, author of Behind the Moon

Mouths Don’t Speak is an intimate look at the complexities of family separation and bonds, wisdom passed from one generation to the next, and haunting trauma. The 2010 earthquake that ravaged Haiti is seen through different lenses both on the island and across the water in the United States. In the fallout, Katia D. Ulysse weaves a beguiling tale of reverie and​ colonial imprint, ​new lives created out of painful pasts, and what it really means to call a place home.”
—Morowa Yejidé, author of Time of the Locust

“With the force of an earthquake and with unrelenting prose, Katia D. Ulysse explores the pain of long-buried secrets, shakes them loose from their foundations, and deftly probes the lives of the families crippled by their aftermath.”
—Amina Gautier, author of The Loss of All Lost Things

“This beautiful book is for anyone who carries the pain of loss, the heartbreak of guilt, the tremor of horrors lived, and the knowledge that we all love in flawed ways. Consider it required reading for humans, and be brought back to life.”
—Anjanette Delgado, author of The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho

“Gripping and heartbreaking, Mouths Don’t Speak is an intricate tapestry of familial betrayals, misunderstandings, forgiveness, and love; a testament to the power of new beginnings even after unspeakable tragedies. The pages had me holding my breath!”
—Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of ’Til the Well Runs Dry


No one was prepared for the massive earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, taking over a quarter-million lives, and leaving millions of others homeless. Three thousand miles away, Jacqueline Florestant mourns the presumed death of her parents, while her husband, a former US Marine and combat veteran, cares for their three-year-old daughter as he fights his own battles with acute PTSD.

Horrified and guilt-ridden, Jacqueline returns to Haiti in search of the proverbial “closure.” Unfortunately, the Haiti she left as a child twenty-five years earlier has disappeared. Her quest turns into a tornado of deception, desperation, and more death. So Jacqueline holds tightly to her daughter—the only one who must not die.

Mouths Don’t Speak was included on The Rumpus‘s list of anticipated forthcoming releases.

Mouths Don’t Speak was chosen as The Rumpus’s November Book Club Selection.

Included in Publishers Weekly’s African-American Interest Adult Titles, 2017-2018.

Read interviews with Katia D. Ulysse at The Rumpus and at Deborah Kalb Books.

Included in Bustle’s 18 Best Fiction Books Of January 2018 Will Help You Start Your Year Will An Amazing Story and 13 Books from Indie Publishers to Look Forward to in 2018.

Listen to an interview with Katia D. Ulysse on WGN Radio’s Pretty Late with Patti Vasquez.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Published: 1/2/18
  • IBSN: 9781617755927
  • e-IBSN: 9781617756047


KATIA D. ULYSSE is a fiction writer, born in Haiti. Her short stories, essays, and Pushcart Prize–nominated poetry appear in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including: The Caribbean Writer, Smartish Pace, Phoebe, Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism; Mozayik, The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, and Haiti Noir, edited by Edwidge Danticat. She has taught in Baltimore public schools for thirteen years, and served as Goucher College’s Spring 2017 Kratz Writer in Residence. Drifting, a collection of short stories, drew high praise from literary critics. She is currently at work on another short story collection. Mouths Don’t Speak is her latest novel.

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