Marilène Phipps knew she had a book about a spiritual journey that involved Vodou and other faiths, but it did not become clear until after she began writing. A memoir is not a history of a life. A memoir selects slices of a life, experiences that reveal themselves to be unwittingly connected to each other by a common thread and within a particular theme. Deciding what to keep in and what to leave out helps consolidate meaning. This is the way it was with Phipps.
The result is Unseen Worlds: Adventures at the Crossroads of Vodou Spirits and Latter-day Saints, which tells an intriguing, dynamic, wide-ranging story of the author’s spiritual life from her Euro-centric, Catholic upbringing in Haiti to a quest that brought her into contact with Vodou priests, Catholic monks—even a pope—as well as Mormon bishops, and young missionaries. Woven in between is the history of Haiti that includes her famous martyred godfather, a kind of Christ figure in her life, who died trying to free the country from dictatorship.
Phipps has a fascinating story to tell, so I just had to talk to her about her journey. In our interview, we discuss her quest, her writing, and begin with her legendary godfather and cousin.
Here is what Marilène had to say about Vodou:
“Vodou is a religion. There is a pantheon of gods, a very rich one, but they do believe in Gran Mèt—Great Master—which is perhaps God. It’s a series of rituals, beliefs, and devotional systems. It came to Haiti through the slaves from different regions of Africa. Each region had its own God. It can be said that the gods made the crossing with their devotees.”
I’ve been working with Calumet Editions on other projects, too, including more author interviews. I’m also excited about partnering with Calumet Editions on audiobook production. I’ll have more to say about that later when the announcement is ready.