Born Yves François Lubin in Haiti on October 2, 1957, Assotto Saint would not take up his authorial nom de guerre until 1980, a decade after moving to the United States, as a means of reclaiming and defining himself in the midst of life crises that he sought to address through writing. Though his father’s name was Mercier, Saint’s mother, Marie Lubin, was single and gave him her family name. Mother, grandmother, and aunt would figure as parents. The family matrix in which he grew up in the port city of Les Cayes was thus matrilineal, and he would not meet his father—a nonentity in his life—in person until he was an adult.
Saint recounts that during his childhood he was frequently the object of other children’s teasing, because of his effeminacy. He was also, however, a very well-behaved child, which counted for much in the eyes of the adults around him. As a child, Saint lived across from the Cathedral and developed an abiding interest in the mystical, perhaps in part, he wryly notes, because of the handsome Belgian parish priest who sang so well. As a boy, Saint felt himself destined for celibacy and the priesthood, and he constructed an altar in his bedroom at which he would nightly say Mass dressed in his mother’s nursing uniform, garnering the approval of adults around him, including the archbishop of Haiti, a family friend. Only his mother was not enthused by these priestly preparations, since she wanted him to become a doctor, like his absent father. These mystical inclinations, together with his father’s absence, led the young Yves to the notion that he was the product of Immaculate Conception. When he was ridiculed for this belief, he began to suspect that he was conceived in the incestuous union of mother and grandfather but did not dare to ask for clarification regarding his paternity. Saint’s work would later refract these themes of paternity, mysticism, gender-bending, and healing through the dark crystals of racism and AIDS-phobia.