A Missionary’s Daughter In Haiti with Apricot Irving

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As a child, Apricot Irving grew up in a sparsely populated desert near Idyllwild, California. When she was six years old her father took a job as an agriculture missionary in Haiti. Suddenly she was surrounded by people everywhere. She says, You wake up in the morning and people want to shake your hand and ask you how you slept and how your family’s doing. It’s a very animated, interpersonal existence. I instinctively responded to that energy - there was so much to discover. There were lizards on the walls which would puff up their throats. There were incredible rainstorms and you’d see people holding giant banana leaves over their heads. The Kamyon bus horn’s bugle calls would erupt down the street as they thundered past.” Irving describes a critique that some Haitians have of the U.S. culture, “I’ve spoken with people in Haiti who explain, somewhat gently, that they’ve lived in the U.S. and they’ve chosen to come back to Haiti because what they saw in the U.S. was that we were busy all the time. They said, ‘You’re always in your vehicles, there are no people out on the street. You don’t have time. Never in my life would I want to live in such a place.’ I think that’s a valid critique.” (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


Apricot Irving currently lives in the woods outside Portland Oregon, but has also lived in Haiti, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom. She returned to Haiti in the spring of 2010 to cover the earthquake for the radio program This American Life. She’s a recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and an Oregon Literary Fellowship. Her renowned oral history project, BoiseVoices.com, is a collaboration between youth and elders to record the stories of the neighborhood in the midst of gentrification. 

Apricot Irving is the author of:

To learn more about the work of Apricot Irving go to www.apricotirving.com. 

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is the history of Haiti
  • What was Apricot Irving’s life in a one-room cabin as a child in the desert near Idyllwild, CA
  • What was her experience living in secluded desert and then being thrown into a completely different culture and terrain
  • What did Irving observe regarding the deep inequity between the missionaries and the surrounding culture
  • What Irving noticed about the narrow range of expressed emotions of protestant Europeans
  • What caused Irving’s jealousy of the attention her father gave to a young Haitian girl
  • What was her father’s split between his work and his family
  • How NGOs would do more harm than good in the aftermath of the Haitian Earthquake
  • What is the challenge of building a deep democracy in a culture in crisis
  • What was life like in a cooperative in Haiti
  • What is the critique that Haitians have of the U.S. culture 

Host: Justine Willis Toms         Interview Date: 3/29/2018        Program Number: 3641

Music Playlist

From Album: Journey Between
Artist: Baka Beyond
Rykodisc #HNCD 1415 

Opening Essay: Track 04 Konti
Music Break 1: Track 05 Kotu
Music Break 2: Track 06 Land’s End
Music Break 3: Track 07 Soiridh Leis