Elsie Augustave and Ann Hood: Cross-Cultural Adoption
Wednesday June 26, 2013
|Photo credit Joyce Ravid and Michael Massen|
Elsie Augustave (The Roving Tree) and Ann Hood (The Red Thread and The Obituary Writer) came together to discuss the theme of cross-cultural adoption in their writing. This event is presented in partnership with Open Lens.
About The Roving Tree
by Elsie Augustave
Elsie Augustave’s debut novel, The Roving Tree, explores multiple themes: separation and loss, rootlessness, the impact of class privilege and color consciousness, and the search for cultural identity. The central character, Iris Odys, is the offspring of Hagathe, a Haitian maid, and Brahami, a French-educated mulatto father who cares little about his child.
Hagathe, who had always dreamt of a better life for her child, is presented with the perfect opportunity when Iris is five years old. Adopted by a white American couple, an anthropologist and art gallery owner, Iris is transported from her tiny remote Haitian village, Monn Neg, to an American suburb.
The Roving Tree illuminates how imperfectly assimilated adoptees struggle to remember their original voices and recapture their personal histories and cultural legacy. Set between two worlds, suburban America and Haiti under the oppressive regime of Papa Doc’s Tanton Macoutes, the novel offers a unique literary glimpse into the deeply entrenched class discrimination and political repression of Haiti during the Duvalier era, along with the subtle but nonetheless dangerous effects of American racism.
Elsie Augustave was born in Haiti and is a graduate of Middlebury College and Howard University with degrees in foreign language and literature. Her dedication to excellence in her field has been acknowledged through numerous international grants for continued studies allowing her to pursue her passion for culture in Senegal and France as a Fulbright Scholar. Among her many accomplishments, Augustave choreographed Elima Ngando, a major production for the prestigious National Dance Theater of Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Augustave currently teaches French and Spanish at the renowned Stuyvesant High School in New York City, and is also a consultant for the College Board. The Roving Tree is her first novel.
About The Red Thread by Ann Hood
“In China there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. Who is at the end of your red thread?”
After losing her infant daughter in a freak accident, Maya Lange opens The Red Thread, an adoption agency that specializes in placing baby girls from China with American families. Maya finds some comfort in her work, until a group of six couples share their personal stories of their desire for a child. Their painful and courageous journey toward adoption forces her to confront the lost daughter of her past. Brilliantly braiding together the stories of Chinese birth mothers who give up their daughters, Ann Hood writes a moving and beautifully told novel of fate and the red thread that binds these characters’ lives. Heartrending and wise, The Red Thread is a stirring portrait of unforgettable love and yearning for a baby.
About Ann Hood's new book The Obituary Writer
On the day John F. Kennedy is inaugurated, Claire, an uncompromising young wife and mother obsessed with the glamour of Jackie O, struggles over the decision of whether to stay in a loveless marriage or follow the man she loves and whose baby she may be carrying. Decades earlier, in 1919, Vivien Lowe, an obituary writer, is searching for her lover who disappeared in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. By telling the stories of the dead, Vivien not only helps others cope with their grief but also begins to understand the devastation of her own terrible loss. The surprising connection between Claire and Vivien will change the life of one of them in unexpected and extraordinary ways. Part literary mystery and part love story, The Obituary Writer examines expectations of marriage and love, the roles of wives and mothers, and the emotions of grief, regret, and hope.
Ann Hood’s bestselling books include An Ornithologist's Guide to Life, The Knitting Circle, Comfort, The Red Thread, and The Obituary Writer. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, Tin House, O, The Oprah Magazine, and elsewhere. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.