Saludos todos! As many of you know, once a month we like to take the time to give special attention to our featured authors and their writing. This week we are featuring Edwidge Danticat, the prolific, inspiring author of many children’s, young adult, and adult books, whom many of you may also recognize from several of my previous ¡Mira, Look! posts. Danticat is originally from Haiti and her books often deal with the culture of Haiti and the immigrant experience, providing a wealth of information on the country’s history, culture and current events.
Here is a short synopsis from Goodreads of Danticat’s life and her abundant accomplishments:
Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures
This month’s featured book here at Vamos a Leer is Claire of the Sea Light, an adult novel by Danticat that does not cease to captivate and mesmerize readers yet again. Although many of Danticat’s books, including her compelling children’s book, Mama’s Nightingale, focus on the Haitian-American immigrant experience, Claire of the Sea Light takes place exclusively in Danticat’s homeland. A review by The New York Times discusses Danticat’s personal life and its influence on this compelling novel:
Danticat, who now lives in Miami, was born in Port-au-Prince in 1969 but left Haiti as a child, following her parents to New York. Over the years, she has become the bard of the Haitian diaspora, her concerns shuttling between and straddling two very different worlds. This book, though, is firmly planted in her homeland, in a fictional community whose comings and goings are less closely connected to any earthly immigrant destination than they are to the great beyond.
Danticat’s books often include a sprinkle of Creole words and phrases, as some of you may remember from my post on Mama’s Nightingale. As others of you may recall, in my post on The Children of Yayoute by Haitian artist and writer François Turenne des Près, I discuss the popular, Haitian call-and-response saying, “Krik? Krak!,” and the rich tradition of Haitian oral folklore. In one of Danticat’s earlier novels, Krik? Krak!, she uses this call-and-response saying as the book’s title, alluding to a variety of Haitian customs and traditions and the history of story-telling in Haiti. This fascinating medley of cultural references, anecdotes, and historical information is characteristic of Danticat’s whole ouevre. Not only does she expertly render cultural particularities and personal familiarities, but, moreover, she makes them accessible to a wide audience. As the NY Times wrote in its review of Claire of the Sea Light, “Danticat’s work, lightly peppered with Creole, studded with observations familiar to those who know Haiti, opens itself to a broader readership through her deft intertwining of the specific and the universal.”
Danticat is an artful and inspiring author whose work, infused with many levels of social conscience, educates readers of a variety of ages in a variety of ways. She is one of our most consistently featured and written-about authors here at Vamos a Leer, in large because the beauty and depth of her writing continue to amaze us. This week in particular we join in the choir of praise for her and her moving works.
For those of you interested in learning more about Edwidge Danticat and her work, here are some additional links:
- TED talk with Edwidge Danticat– Stories of Haiti
- Ghosts — New Yorker piece by Edwidge Danticat
- “All Immigrants are Artists” — The Atlantic article about Edwidge Danticat, including excerpts from interviews
- The New Yorker, list of contributions by Edwidge Danticat
- New Yorker podcast, Junot Diaz reads Edwidge Danticat
Stay tuned for an introduction to our March themes and some more wonderful books!