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The Roving Tree - Interview with Elsie Augustave

"The Roving Tree" by . Elsie Augustave
Elsie Augustave

Sometimes writers do not write a really good book on their first attempt; however, this is not the case for Elise Augustave.
"The Roving Tree" is enchanting beautiful story that has been crafted for more than 18 years, and now, it is out there for readers to enjoy.

"The Roving Tree is both a song and a social essay. It provides a window on a world and rounds out by circling back to the prologue."
--Asheville Citizen-Times

"The beauty of this book lies in its simplicity. An engaging read that packs a powerful punch."
--Historical Novel Review

"A fulfilling, exciting and ultra-lyrical read, The Roving Tree is really a novel about a lost soul’s identity quest."

Author's Note:

While I was living in Paris many years ago, I finally found enough courage to attempt to write a novel- a dream that had been mine for a very long time. I gathered journals, notes and poems I had written over the years in an effort to synthesize my thoughts but could not help focusing on the two months I spent in Haiti with a graduate summer research grant from Howard University that took me all over the country to study folk culture and the vaudou religion for my thesis. Looking at a sea of rooftops from the window of my small 5th arrondissement studio apartment on a cold, grey and misty day, I made up my mind to further investigate Haitian traditional beliefs in a novel form. I also recalled hearing that the daughter of a woman who worked for my grandmother had been adopted by a French missionary couple and could not help wondering what her life might have become in a foreign land, away from everything that she had known. With those thoughts in mind The Roving Tree came to life in my head and, as I began to write, characters appeared to tell their stories.


With such a marvelous description about the inception of The Roving Tree, I felt very lucky to have the honor and the privilege of interviewing her:

FR: How would you describe your experience writing this story?

EA: Writing The Roving Tree was an outlet to delve into creativity, as it made me realize there is no limit to a person’s imagination.

FR: How much do you think Iris, the protagonist, mirrors you?

EA: Even though Iris and I grew up in very different settings, we do have the love of dance in common. I also believe the protagonist used some of my experiences to tell her story.

FR: Just with the prologue, the story seems to take on an enchanting spiritual journey; would you say it is retrospection? A way to the future? Both?

EA: As you might already know, Haiti has a rich story-telling tradition inherited from Africa, and spirituality for us is a way of life. The prologue thus reflects the influence of folktales that I listened to in rural Haiti. I clearly recall those fascinating stories about people having conversations with spirits or even with God. I think, while writing the prologue, I must have had those enchanting moments in mind.

FR: The world is changing quickly; blending race and cultures together, how would you say The Roving Tree relates to that?

EA: The American idea of a melting pot is spreading worldwide because of immigration and globalization. Likewise, behavioral and cultural differences are accepted and are no longer a handicap. Specific cultural features are also altered within some societies in the name of modernity or practicality. The Roving Tree addresses all those issues throughout the protagonist’s journey.

FR: How important do you think it is for individuals to be connected to their cultural root?

EA: Being connected to our cultural root provides understanding of who we are, as cultural and ancestral traits often manifest themselves unexpectedly, and it is important to comprehend them.

FR: Regarding your reading, what authors would you say that were the most influential on you?

EA: I admire the works of Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, Maryse Condé, and Aminata Sow Fall, to name a few. There are many others.

FR: What books would you say that inspired you to write?

EA: I think Jacques Roumain’s Masters of the Dew and Claude Mc Kay’s Banana Bottom are the two novels that have inspired me the most because when I began writing The Roving Tree, those two novels kept coming to mind.

FR: “The Roving Tree” is a beautiful title. Did you have it in mind before writing the book or after?

EA: During the early stages of writing the novel I woke up one night, from a dream that I no longer remember, with the words The Roving Tree in mind. I decided at that moment that it would be the title of the book.

FR: What do you think readers will get from reading this story?

EA: It is my hope that readers will gain knowledge of Haitian and African lives that are rarely discussed, like, the recurring conflict of class and color, a world where power, oppression and corruption dominate lives and, most of all, the mystical implications of traditional beliefs and practices.

FR: Without including Iris, which one would you say that is your favorite character? Why?

EA: Lamercie, the matriarch, is my favorite character. She is a sassy, witty, insightful, knowledgeable, illiterate old woman, who breathes wisdom.

FR: What does the story of The Roving Tree means to you?

EA: The Roving Tree represents my first attempt at writing fiction and will hopefully mark the beginning of a new writing career. The story itself is a compilation of themes that are important to me and that I wanted to address.

FR: Is there something you’ll like to entice us with regarding your next novel?

EA: The next novel will be an exploration of themes that are of interest to me: past and present, individuality and family lineage, memory and effacement.

FR: Thank you Elsie Augustave


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