Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, she moved to Brooklyn, NY to be with her parents, who had moved several years prior, when she was 12. She became interested in writing as early as age nine, but literature became a source of refuge after her relocation to the U.S., where she initially felt disoriented by her new surroundings and out of place. Drawing from her own experiences she began writing short stories about the experience of being Haitian in America and even had two pieces published by New Youth Connections, a magazine written by teenagers in New York.
After studying French Literature at Barnard college, Danticat went on to earn her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Brown University in 1993. Her Masters thesis, entitled “My turn in the fire – an abridged novel,” a partly autobiographical account of the relationships between several generations of Haitian women, later became her first published novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, published a year later in 1994 when she was only 25. Breath, Eyes, Memory later became an Oprah’s Book Club Selection in 1998, and, even earlier, was succeeded by her second book, Krik? Krak!, a collection of 10 stories, and later, the 1998 novel The Farming of Bones. Her other works of fiction include The Dew Breaker (2004) and Claire of the Sea Light (2013). She has also served as the editor of the Haiti Noiranthology series, published by Akashic Books.
Her work often permeates with themes of mother-daughter relationships, national identity, and diasporic politics. As Maya Jaggi noted in her 2004 profile of Edwidge Danticat in the Guardian, Danticat’s “fiction gives voice to unspeakable grief and trauma, genocide and torture.”
She has also written the nonfiction books After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (2002), a travelogue, and Brother I’m Dying (2007), a memoir that focused on her uncle, Reverend Joseph N. Dantica, who had raised Edwidge in Haiti until she left to join her parents in New York and later fled Haitian gang violence to seek asylum in the U.S. in 2004, but died while being held in custody by the Department of Homeland Security. Speaking on his death to the Guardian, the same year, Danticat said her uncle was a “casualty of both the conflict in Haiti and [the] inhumane and discriminatory US immigration system,” one of “so many people caught in the crossfire.” Forced to flee his home with almost nothing, “he fled the frying pan for the fire,” according to Danticat’s own words.
Her writing has won her the Pushcart Short Story Prize, the American Book Award (1999), the National Book Critics’ Circle Award (2007), and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship (2009), among numerous other accolades. Her work is consistently well-received by critics and fellow authors alike. And according to West Indian writer Robert Antoni, she is “‘doing for Haiti’s history of violence and vengeance what Toni Morrison did for the US in tackling the horrors of slavery and its aftermath.'”