In her memoir, Unique in America, Yanique Beliard-Michel uses her own undocumented immigrant story to foster love and tolerance between people
If you wonder what’s really like immigrating to the United States, Yanique Beliard-Michel is the right person for you. Or even better her latest book Unique In America where she shares her personal struggles, disappointments, and sorrows as she fights to achieve her lifelong dream. Launched earlier this year, this gripping and soulful memoir gives the real picture of the challenges and sacrifices a woman has to face on her journey to becoming a legal citizen of the United States. In this interview, Yanique Beliard -Michel talks about how being a mother shaped her book, the joys of being an author as well as her mission as a writer.
Your whole life story is fascinating yet there are only so many available pages in a book. How did you choose the stories and events for your memoir, “Unique in America?”
For my book “Unique in America,” I chose in the first part the events that show the progress of my relationship with my mom, while at the same time I exposed the life of the folks in my native town of Cap-Haitian. In the second part, I detailed the situations of immigrants fighting the obstacles of their adaptation in America.
What were the easiest and hardest chapters to write?
The easiest chapters were the ones about our fight women’s fights like my mom at her store and buying the mansion at Rue 20H or myself working as a physician at Roche-a-Bateau. They show how confidence and hope helped us persevere.
The hardest was writing about Brunel’s fight against cancer ending in death. To me, it was like admitting that our efforts didn’t pay off.
Why did you feel it was important to share your story?
I wanted to share my story about my relationship with my mom to remind people that material goods can’t replace affection or love. I decided to do so after meeting one of my former classmates who claimed that my mom has raised me like a princess.
Terence McKenna used to say that artists have the mission to save the world’s soul. What do you think an author’s mission should be in these troubled times?
I believe an author’s mission is to cultivate love, peace, and tolerance through their stories. Show that even when we have different ideas, opinions, beliefs, we can still work together and cooperate for the benefit of our community. Create characters that show that being different doesn’t make a person unworthy. I also believe writing strong female characters is equally important because they can serve as role models for women of all ages.
You launched “Unique in America” earlier this year. What is the biggest joy this book brought you so far?
You dedicate this book to your two amazing daughters, Cindy and Christie. What part did they play in the making of “Unique in America?”
In the beginning, I just wanted to write about Mom and me. Christie told me to write my immigrant story instead. I combined them. Cindy helped me with computer tasks. She also gave me emotional and monetary support.
I would like to end our conversation with a short paragraph from “Unique in America.” Which quote best summarizes the message of your book?
The first thing that comes to my mind is, “Your diploma is your first husband.”
But I also feel that many immigrants will relate to this one:
“The major risk one could incur by being an undocumented immigrant was to not be able to legalize your status: to remain an undocumented immigrant forever. The immediate consequence was that you lose your career. You weren’t able to reach your goal and failed. But there was also the constant threat of seeing your marriage or any close relationship crumble, because of difficulties linked to your immigrant status. The psychological impacts like depression and loss of confidence and self-esteem loomed to seize hold of you when least expected. The undocumented immigrant in many instances was ostracized by relatives and friends.”