Catherine Porter is the Canada bureau chief for The New York Times, based in Toronto. She joined the paper in February 2017 from Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation newspaper, where she was a columnist and feature writer. Catherine has received two National Newspaper Awards in Canada, the Landsberg Award for her feminist columns, and a Queen’s Jubliee Medal for grassroots community work. Her first book, A Girl Named Lovely, was published in February 2019. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two kids. Visit her at PorterWrites.ca or on Twitter @PortertheReport.
Photo credit: Tara Walton
A Girl Named Lovely
An insightful and uplifting memoir about a young Haitian girl in post-earthquake Haiti, and the profound, life-changing effect she had on one journalist’s life.
In January 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, killing hundreds of thousands of people and paralyzing the country. Catherine Porter, a newly minted international reporter, was on the ground in the immediate aftermath. Moments after she arrived in Haiti, Catherine found her first story. A ragtag group of volunteers told her about a “miracle child”—a two-year-old girl who had survived six days under the rubble and emerged virtually unscathed.
Catherine found the girl the next day. Her family was a mystery; her future uncertain. Her name was Lovely. She seemed a symbol of Haiti—both hopeful and despairing.
When Catherine learned that Lovely had been reunited with her family, she did what any journalist would do and followed the story. The cardinal rule of journalism is to remain objective and not become personally involved in the stories you report. But Catherine broke that rule on the last day of her second trip to Haiti. That day, Catherine made the simple decision to enroll Lovely in school, and to pay for it with money she and her readers donated.
Over the next five years, Catherine would visit Lovely and her family seventeen times, while also reporting on the country’s struggles to harness the international rush of aid. Each trip, Catherine’s relationship with Lovely and her family became more involved and more complicated. Trying to balance her instincts as a mother and a journalist, and increasingly conscious of the costs involved, Catherine found herself struggling to align her worldview with the realities of Haiti after the earthquake. Although her dual roles as donor and journalist were constantly at odds, as one piled up expectations and the other documented failures, a third role had emerged and quietly become the most important: that of a friend.
A Girl Named Lovely is about the reverberations of a single decision—in Lovely’s life and in Catherine’s. It recounts a journalist’s voyage into the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, hit by the greatest natural disaster in modern history, and the fraught, messy realities of international aid. It is about hope, kindness, heartbreak, and the modest but meaningful difference one person can make.