15th June 2019
The Saturday Interview: Yanique Beliard-Michel
Hi - thanks very much for your time. Could you please introduce yourself and your novel, ‘Unique in America’?
My name is Yanique Beliard-Michel. I’m the author of Unique in America. It’s a memoir where in the first part I write about my upbringing in my native town of Cap-Haitian, Haiti. There, I’m raised by my self-sufficient mother and seen as a privileged kid by my townsfolk while at home I endure the wrath of my mother who sees me as an obstacle to her new life with her boyfriend: Julio. In the second part, I expose my experiences as an immigrant in the U.S. working to raise her two daughters after her husband died and her dream of a conventional family was destroyed.
What sort of readers do you think would enjoy ‘Unique in America’?
Readers who are interested in learning about the plight of immigrants and the difficulties of motherhood.
How would you describe the overall tone of the book?
I would describe the overall tone of my book as candid. At times hopeful when exposing the remedies used to solve painful situations; gloomy when talking about the ravages of cancer in my family and the resulting tragedy; accepting when facing calamity.
What inspired you to write your biography?
One of my former high school classmates told me when I was about 44 years old that my mother has raised me like a princess. I wasn’t surprised by her comment, but wanted to tell the world that I had many problems at home that material assets - possessions - couldn’t compensate for. My daughter Christie advised me to write my immigrant story instead of my upbringing story. I combined both.
Have you always had a desire to write?
Yes! Writing for me is a refuge… A place where I can be myself...
Given that the events in your biography are obviously already well-known to you, what preparation did you do before you started writing?
No preparation. It was like I had waited for that moment all my life and it was time to act. It took me more than seven years to write the first version of my memoir before I realized that all I had done was to take my revenge and present my mother as a two-dimensional character: a woman able to provide food, housing, clothing, gifts… and looked for occasions to punish me… So I had to discard that manuscript and start over.
Do you feel then that subsequent versions of your manuscript were more balanced?
Yes, in the first manuscript I focused on my childhood and my relationship with my mother. Then, I presented her as a despicable woman and myself an angel. In the revised manuscript I talked about Mom as the successful, practical woman determined to keep her relationship with my stepfather while dealing with my numerous attempts to spoil that relationship and caring for me. I also added my adult life as an immigrant and the problems I faced as a mother.
What lessons have you learned from writing your debut novel?
I have learned to be objective, that I need a professional editor to review my manuscript and establish a productive dialogue with that editor so my work could benefit from her or his input.
What do you feel was key to building that positive working relationship?
For me, it was important that the editor didn’t review my manuscript like it was another job; that she manifested some interest and understood the story I wrote since another culture played a major place in it.
What made you decide to reach out to Black Château to help market and promote your work?
I reached out to Black Chateau because I want to share my immigrant story with a large audience and if possible the world.
Outside of writing, what are your passions in life?
Reading and travelling.
Do you have a favourite author?
William Faulkner is my favorite author. I like the themes explored in his books: memory and the past; alienation and isolation; race and identity; the feminine ideal.
Do you have any other projects that we should watch out for?
Yes! I am working on “THE TRAP”. It is a novel about an american soldier who did an act of kindness while fighting in Iraq. In that setting: WAR, it was an act of treason and a crime. That act would come back to haunt him and derail his political ambition by sowing division, animosity, confusion among his friends, family, the members of his political party; but would save his life in the future.
Thank you for your time. Yanique Beliard-Michel's debut novel, 'Unique in America', is available to buy through Amazon.