Haitian author Edwidge Danticat is fluent—and eloquent—in three languages. Born in Port-au-Prince, she was raised in the Creole culture, took an honors degree in French literature, and writes stunning fiction in English.
She published her debut novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994), at twenty-four, only twelve years after immigrating to New York, “completely between languages.” Infusing her novels, short stories, and essays is the rich narrative tradition of her Haitian ancestors, who, Danticat says, blended the European languages of their enslavers with African dialects to invent “a language from which colorful phrases blossomed to fit the desperate circumstances.” Her short story collection Krik? Krak! (1991), nominated for the National Book Award, gives voice to those who fled the dictators and those who remained behind. She invokes history in The Farming of Bones (1999), the haunting tale of Haitian field workers massacred by a Dominican Republic dictator. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, The Dew Breaker (2004) portrays an immigrant father who hides from his Brooklyn-dwelling daughter the brutal acts he committed in the Haitian homeland.
Danticat has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, an American Book Award, and the first Story Prize for outstanding short fiction. She has taught at New York University and the University of Miami. Danticat lives in the “Little Haiti” neighborhood of Miami.
Excerpt from The Dew Breaker
Before my father was arrested, the president of the republic would drive through my town on New Year’s Eve and throw money from the window of his big shiny black car. Sun rays would wrap themselves around the brand-new coins, making them glow like glass. When we heard that the president was coming, we would clean our entire house, dust our cedar table, and my father would stay home from the sea in case the president chose to get out of the car and walk into our house, to offer us something extra, a bag of rice, a pound of beans, a gallon of corn oil, a promise of future entrance to the medical school or the agricultural school in Damien, something that would have bought our loyalty forever, so that twenty, thirty, forty years after he was long dead, we might still be saying, “Things were hard, but we once had a president who gave me a sack of rice, some beans, and a gallon of cooking oil. It was the first and last time anyone in power gave me anything.” As if this sack of rice, this pound of beans, this gallon of cooking oil were the gold, silver, and bronze medals in the poverty Olympics.
The Dew Breaker (2004)
Behind the Mountains, young adult (2002)
The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States, editor (2001)
The Farming of Bones (1999)
Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)
Krik? Krak! (1991)
African American Literature Book Club
The Morning News: Interview with Edwidge Danticat