Edwidge Danticat Biography

Writer(1969–)
Edwidge Danticat is an award-winning writer of Haitian descent known for works like 'Breath, Eyes, Memory,' 'Krik? Krak!' and 'The Dew Breaker,' among others.

Synopsis

Born on January 19, 1969, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Edwidge Danticat later immigrated to the U.S., where she published her debut novel Breath, Eyes, Memory. She has written an array of award-winning fiction and non-fiction books over the years, including Krik? Krak!, The Dew Breaker, Claire of the Sea Light and Brother, I’m Dying, a memoir which focused on the uncle who’d helped raise her.

Background

Edwidge Danticat was born on January 19, 1969, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Her parents, fleeing the oppressive regimes of François Duvalier and son Jean-Claude, were able to settle in Brooklyn, New York, while Danticat and younger sibling André had to remain behind. After years of correspondence, Danticat and her brother were able to come to the States, being reunited with their parents and meeting two new siblings they didn’t know. Danticat started to hone her craft as a writer during her adolescence.

'Breath, Eyes, Memory'

Though her parents initially wanted her to focus on medicine, Danticat went on to study French literature at Barnard College in Manhattan, later earning a creative writing graduate degree from Brown University in 1993. Her former master’s thesis was released in 1994 as the debut novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, following a girl’s journey from Haiti to the U.S. The work earned great acclaim and was eventually selected as an official book club pick by Oprah Winfrey in 1998.

Variety of Fiction and Non-Fiction

Over the years, Danticat has penned a variety of fiction and non-fiction, chronicling the lives of Haitian citizens and creating vivid, unflinching portrayals of injustice. She followed Breath, Eyes, Memory with 1995’s Krik? Krak!, a collection of 10 stories, and the 1998 novel The Farming of Bones. Her other fiction offerings have included The Dew Breaker (2004) and Claire of the Sea Light (2013), and she has served as the editor of the Haiti Noir anthology series, published by Akashic Books.

Among Danticat’s non-fiction books are the travelogue After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (2002) and the memoir Brother, I’m Dying (2007). The latter work focused on her uncle, Reverend Joseph N. Dantica, who had raised Edwidge while her parents were in New York. He later fled Haitian gang violence to seek asylum in the U.S., but died while being held in custody by the Department of Homeland Security.

Danticat also penned the 2010 essay collection Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. She has been the recipient of an American Book Award (1999), a National Book Critics Circle Award (2007) and a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship (2009), among many other honors. 

Edwidge Danticat

(Photo: Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, via Wikimedia Commons)

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