Six Questions for Roxane Gay on the International Day of Families

The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them. It has inspired a series of awareness-raising events, including national family days. In many countries, this day is an opportunity to highlight different areas of interest and importance to families.

In honor of the International Day of Families, Hope for Haiti interviewed internationally renowned writer, professor, editor, and commentator Roxane Gay to get her take on family, Haiti, and growing up as a member of a Haitian American Family. Roxane is also the “favorite daughter” of Hope for Haiti’s board member, Michael Gay.

Hope for Haiti: Growing up in a Haitian American Family, what is a Haitian tradition that your parents introduced you to that you still carry on today?

Roxane Gay: Celebrating Haitian Independence Day with Soupe Joumou and family has always been a tradition I love because our Independence Day is also New Year’s Day. It becomes both a celebration of our history and a time to look forward into the coming year, surrounded by family and delicious soup.

Hope for Haiti: In Untamed State and Ayiti you write stories about people who are Haitian diaspora. How much of those stories are shaped by your own personal experiences growing up in a Haitian American family?

Roxane Gay: The stories in An Untamed State and Ayiti are definitely informed by my experiences but they are fiction.  As a member of the diaspora, I wanted to explore, in both books, what it means to be Haitian and Haitian American, what it means to return to Haiti, to have a conflicted relationship with Haiti, to know that the island will always be home. 

Hope for Haiti: How has your family empowered you on your journey to become a writer, professor, editor and commentator?

Roxane Gay: My family has been incredibly supportive, throughout my life. They have demonstrated what it means to love and be loved unconditionally. My parents, in particular, have instilled in me the importance of a good work ethic, having integrity, valuing family, and having a sense of humor. Everything I am today is due in large part to how my parents raised me. I am certain my brothers would say the same with regard to their own successes.

Hope for Haiti: Healthy families is a part of Hope for Haiti’s vision. What role do you think feminism plays in supporting healthy families?

Roxane Gay: Feminism plays the most important role in supporting healthy families. In a world where women are equal, where women are safe from all forms of violence, where they are supported in the choices they make for their bodies and lives, where they receive equal pay for equal work, and where their subject position is taken into account at all times, women will thrive. When women thrive, families thrive.

Hope for Haiti: What’s one misconception that people have about Haiti and Haitian families that you would like to change.

Roxane Gay: People have a very narrow understanding of Haiti and who Haitians are. They hear the unfortunate and prevailing narrative about Haiti’s poverty and think the island has nothing to offer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Haiti knows quite a lot of hardship but her people are resilient and strong and passionate, just like the country itself. I wish people knew how much more there was to Haiti than what the media chooses to share.

Hope for Haiti: Do you have a favorite sibling?

Roxane Gay: I sure do! 

To support Hope for Haiti’s vision for healthy, Haitian families, please click here.

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