WHERE ARE YOU RIGHT NOW AND HAVE YOU ALWAYS LIVED THERE?
Right now, I am in Miami, Florida. I have not always lived here. I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. I moved to Brooklyn, New York, when I was 12years old to join my parents who had migrated there. I lived in Paris for a year when I was 18. I did my junior year abroad there. Then I lived in Providence, Rhode Island, when I was in graduate school. I moved to Miami about sixteen years ago and have lived here pretty much since then.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND RAISED?
Haiti then New York.
WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR PRESENT CITY OR HOMETOWN?
The weather for sure, except in July and August when it can get pretty muggy. Then of course hurricane season is no fun. For the last two years, we’ve barely escaped two possible category five storms, Matthew and Maria. The other great thing about the city is the mix of cultures. There are people from all over the world here and tons of great food and music.
WHAT WERE YOUR ASPIRATIONS GROWING UP?
I always wanted to be a writer. My parents didn’t approve of that so I told myself I could be a nurse or doctor who also writes. There are a lot of wonderful doctor writers now. Maybe I could have been one of those. I went to a high school named after Clara Barton, who was the nurse who started the American Red Cross. Everyone at my high school was supposed to go into the health professions. As part of my education I had to volunteer in a hospital two days a week. I volunteered in what was then called the geriatric ward and every time a patient died, I was inconsolable. That’s when I realized that the medical profession was not for me.
Because I deeply, deeply love writing and feel quite unhappy when I’m not doing it.
WHAT'S YOUR EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND?
I have a Bachelor’s in French Literature and Translation from Barnard College and a Masters of Fine (MFA) Arts from Brown University.
WHAT THEMES DO YOU SEEK TO EVOKE IN THROUGH WORK?
I try not to think in such broad terms with my work, but people tend to do it for me. I suppose one would say that I address issues such as immigration, dislocation, mother-daughter relationships and our (I guess me and a few other folks) relationship with memory and history.
WHAT IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
It’s kind of all consuming at times. If I have an idea, I try to pin it down and hammer at it, that is work on it, as much as I can until I finish. This can be a bit disruptive to a normal life. I am trying to be more scheduled about it. My body does not recover as quickly so I have to try harder to compartmentalize better and trust that the work I have begun will be there for me when I return to it.
WHO OR WHAT HAS HAD THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOU?
My parents. They left my brother and me with family members in Haiti when we were two and four to go work in New York. Even in their absence they were colossal figures to me. I had to imagine how they might have been parenting me and my brother every day for them to remain our parents in my mind. The sacrifices immigrant parents make for the future of their children are often underestimated. Even I didn’t fully understand it until I became a parent. Sacrificing being with your child in the hopes that they might have a better life later or taking your child on a boat or all the things immigrant and refugee parents do are extraordinary acts of love that is perhaps not easy to understand from the outside.
HOW DOES YOUR AESTHETIC TRANSLATE IN YOUR EVERYDAY LIFE?
I like things pretty simple. The easier it is the better for me, so I make the least demanding choices in pretty much everything, including clothes and make up etc. If I like something, I'll buy a couple so I don't have to think too much about needing that thing for a while. The simpler the better really.
WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO WHEN YOU'RE NOT WORKING?
I used to try to paint, but now I mostly follow my kids around, even though they are not in as many activities as some other kids. The big complaint from those who love me is that I always seem to be working. It’s hard for me to take a full weekend off for example and not write. But when I'm not working, I am mostly with my husband and two daughters and a hanging out with a few friends.
HOW DO YOU UNWIND?
Same as above. Sometimes reading quietly with my girls at night is a fantastic way to end the day. Writing is also how I unwind. Next year when I turn 50, I would love to be able to say that I also unwind by sleeping more or by doing yoga or something like that. That is at least my intent and my goal.