Like her protagonist, Augustave was also born in Haiti and left for the U.S. as a child, although not due to adoption. Her family emigrated to America to escape the Duvalier regime. There were only two other Haitian families living in their upstate New York town. In interviews, she has said the inspiration for Iris came from a story she heard while visiting Haiti as an adult, about the child of a peasant woman who had been adopted by a French missionary couple. Augustave imagined what the child’s life might have been like in a foreign land, away from everything and everyone she knew.
Despite not being adopted herself, Augustave has portrayed some of the identity angst many adoptees feel through the character of Iris. We feel Iris’s ambivalence toward her Haitian mother as a young child—a protective instinct—and, likewise, we recognize her desire as an adult to understand her Haitian family and their belief system.