The Gospel of Trees by APRICOT IRVING

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In this lush, emotional debut memoir, Irving tells of her life as a missionary’s daughter in Haiti. Irving was born in California, but in 1982, at age six, her parents moved her and her sister to Haiti. Years of destructive colonization had left Haiti with severe deforestation, and her father began an ambitious mission to plant trees. Irving unflinchingly evaluates the consequences of well-meaning humanitarian work, which often included the perpetuation of oppressive colonial structures. She writes, “There is, in colonial literature, a recurring image: a foreign man, emboldened by his authority and by the lack of accountability, takes on a native mistress as a token of both his unquestioned power and his affection.” Amid the poverty in Haiti, Irving finds a “more complicated world where sorrow and beauty lived under the same leaky roof.” There, Irving wrestled with the prescriptions of her Christian beliefs, ultimately discovering a deeper faith in something else—that of beauty. “Beauty, it seemed, had been here all along: a wild summons, a name for God that did not stick in my throat.” This is a beautiful memoir that shows how a family altered by its own ambitious philanthropy might ultimately find hope in their faith and love for each other, and for Haiti.