Elizabeth Turnbull, author of Say to These Mountains: A Biography of Faith and Ministry in Rural Haiti
What is the biggest misconception Americans have about Haiti and Haitians?
Too many Americans believe that Haitians live in a land of abject poverty and misery, that they are desperate for someone to come and lift them up. There is a lot of poverty, yes, but also beauty, joy, creativity, independence, and awe-inspiring resilience. I wish more people could see that side of the country and her people.
What made you want to tell the story of your grandfather’s life for a wider audience?
Today, Haiti is filled with NGOs and missions wanting to make a positive difference. A lot of the work they’re doing is built on a foundation my grandfather helped lay seventy years ago, and they have no idea. He was too busy working to tell people about it, so I decided to tell his story for him. I hope his story will not only put today’s work in context but will also serve as inspiration to others. My grandfather isn’t an easy man, and he didn’t come from an easy place. His story is one of grace and healing, and we all need more of that.
Did growing up in Haiti influence your choice to become a writer and storyteller for a living?
My family will tell you that I was born a storyteller, but I do believe that Haiti has played an important role in that. I grew up between two worlds, never fully belonging to one or the other. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to reconcile those worlds, to help both sides understand one another. Writing is the best tool I have for that.