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The Roving Tree


A powerful debut novel illuminating how adoptees struggle to recapture their personal histories and cultural legacy, part of Akashic’s Open Lens imprint.

$15.95 $11.96

Available as an e-book for:

What people are saying…

One of the South Florida Times‘s Best Bets For Your Weekend!

Essence Magazine: Summer Reading Pick!

“Augustave, a first-time novelist, pens a well-balanced story about a young woman, caught between two worlds, who struggles to connect with her heritage . . . a polished narrative that addresses racism and cultural and class differences and provides a wealth of information about vaudou beliefs.”
Kirkus Reviews

“With her skillful incorporation of literary realism, Augustave brilliantly synthesizes the cultural richness of Haitian Vodou and the impoverished socio-political affairs of Haiti, along with the acidic polluted gush of racism that is deeply drenched in American society.”
Haitian Times

“Augustave creates a stunning tale with beautiful language that dwells in the realm of magical realism . . . The characters are rich, complicated and full of color and nuance.”
Mosaic Magazine

“A gorgeous new novel about a Haitian adoptee finding her way in many different corners of the world.”
—Edwidge Danticat, in the New York Times‘s By the Book feature

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

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

“Augustave . . . illustrates the devastating rootlessness of cultural disaffiliation.”
World Literature Today

“A fresh new voice who adds her own charming, beguiling brand of lyricism to the growing body of Haitian American stories. The Roving Tree is a unique and fascinating book, and I for one look forward to hearing more from this writer.”
—Lorna Goodison, author of From Harvey River

“A beautiful, layered, nuanced story about a woman finding herself.”

“A great journey . . . quite enjoyable well worth the read.”
HIP Magazine

“It’s this attention to a blend of social issues, politics and transformation that enrich The Roving Tree and give it the kind of dimension and depth missing from singular stories of either adoptees or immigrants from other cultures.”
Midwest Book Review

“A well-written story with fleshed-out characters who are very much products of their time. . . . This story made me realize how much of a force of nature ordinary people can be.”
Idle Musings

“I cannot begin to describe how deeply moved I was by The Roving Tree . . . completely worth a read. Simply stated, it’s a blessing.”
Read at Home Mama

“Augustave is a talented writer who brings her varied characters to life and shows readers parts of the world that few of us have experienced. Her book is an excellent anecdote to books about immigration that, intentionally or not, present the western world as the favored or inevitable destination . . . I strongly recommend The Roving Tree to all those who are interested in Haiti, Zaire, and African traditions more generally.”
Me, You, and Books

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

The Roving Tree is Elsie Augustave’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next. Augustave writes beautifully and it’s obvious that she cares a lot about the subject matter she chooses. I definitely recommend The Roving Tree to anyone who likes reading literary fiction and/or to anyone who is interested in the ideas and history portrayed in the book.”
Between the Covers

The Roving Tree is truly an enthralling debut novel that deserves a wide audience; readers will undoubtedly be enriched by their engagement with it.”
—SX Salon

“It is fucking effortless, this whole story. Absolutely beautifully written and latches onto your brain straight away.”


A selection of our Open Lens imprint.

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.

Told from beyond the grave, Iris seamlessly shares her poignant and pivotal life experiences. The Roving Tree, underscored by the spiritual wisdom of Haitian griots, offers insightful revelations of the importance of significant relationships with family and friends. Years later, we see how these elements are transformative to Iris’s intense love affair, and her personal and professional growth. Universal truths resonate beyond the pages of this work.

Read an excerpt from The Roving Tree at Cornbread and Cremasse.

Read interviews with Elsie Augustave at People Who Write; The Writer Librarian; Words of Colour; the South Florida Times; Examiner.com; and Island Fuse Entertainment.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Published: 5/7/13
  • IBSN: 9781617751653
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751738


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.

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