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Ardain Isma
Bittersweet Memories of Last Spring
Ardain Isma, author

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

In 1980, 17-year-old Yrvin Lacroix is in a sailboat from Haiti bound for Miami, Florida in search of a better life. He leaves behind his beloved mother, his siblings, and Régine—his childhood sweetheart to whom he has made a promise to return. In Miami, despite his precarious situation as a refugee, Yrvin joins Haitian exiles in the fight against the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti as well as the struggle for refugee rights. He believes a win against the odds will help him shape the course of his life. As time passes, Yrvin’s love and passion for Régine begins to fade. Attending school is his main objective. On a rainy December day, he meets Michaela, a mixed-race girl of Dominican origin and fellow student at his school. They fall in love. But that love suffers a major setback when Yrvin learns of Régine’s presence in Miami. Yrvin must now face a scorned Régine while staying focused in school and preserving his relationship with Michaela. Will he succeed? Bittersweet Memories of Last Spring is an impressive novel of faith, love, and identity—the first installment of a sequel penned by critically-acclaimed author Ardain Isma.
Seasickness is the first but far from the only challenge faced by 17-year-old Yrvin “Vinco” LaCroix as he flees Haiti for Miami in 1980 to seek a better life for himself and his family. Leaving behind his first love, Régine, and his parents, he unites with his sister to navigate the immigrant trail, learn English, and obtain an education. Isma (Alicia Maldonado: A Mother Lost) exquisitely details Vinco’s raw emotions and turmoil while he adapts to his new land, with his heart still in Haiti.

Throughout Bittersweet Memories of Last Spring, Isma demonstrates the daily grind on one’s soul of building a life in a new country. His sister Nana feeds, cares, and offers live-in support as the two grapple to earn enough to maintain their sparse existence. The Miami Haitian community and Refugee Center link him to activism for refugee rights and support to overturn the Haitian dictator Duvalier. Vinco’s intensity for change fuels him to protest as his family remains under unjust rule. Despite his involvement in Haitian community politics, Vinco must carve his own road to victory. Soon he neglects Régine, as surviving in his new world takes every ounce of his energy.

Building confident decision-making skills and choosing who to trust demands true grit. When Vinco discovers Régine has arrived in Miami, his indecisive and contradictory actions backfire on him as he struggles to find his path and his loyalties amid contradictory friends. Readers will share his relief and excitement when he develops a relationship with the beautiful Michaela, who left the Dominican Republic at age three. Michaela has the love, support, and presence of her parents who have found their way in the United States. But even her support has its limits, and Vinco’s relationship inexperience jeopardizes his heart while he battles his emotions to focus on his studies. Isma demonstrates, touchingly, the loneliness and uncertainty that can come with the immigrant experience, while exhibiting perseverance.

Takeaway: Touching story of a Haitian immigrant finding his way in the U.S.

Comparable Titles: Kathryn Brown Ramsperger’s The Shores of Our Souls, Julissa Arce’s My (Underground) American Dream.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A