Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Edwidge Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1969. Like many Haitian children of her generation, she was born into a poor family and was left in the care of relatives when her parents emigrated to the United States in search of better opportunities. Danticat’s father left first, when she was two years old; her mother followed two years later. Danticat’s parents settled in Brooklyn, New York, and found work—her father as a cab driver, her mother as a textile worker. They had two more children, both boys, before sending for their older children in Haiti. In 1981, when Danticat was twelve years old, she and her younger brother were reunited with their parents in Brooklyn.
As a child in Haiti, Danticat spoke Haitian Creole, or Kreyol, a language that is based mainly on French but includes influences from West African languages as well. Creole is still the language that Danticat speaks at home with her parents in Brooklyn. Danticat recalls that storytelling was one of the favorite pastimes in Haiti when she was young. Older relatives would ask “Krik?” to inquire whether the children were ready to hear stories, and the children would reply “Krak!” to indicate that they were ready to listen. Danticat believes that her love of writing stems from her immersion in the culture of storytelling as a child.
When Danticat arrived in Brooklyn, she spoke no English. In school in Haiti, she had learned to read and write in French. English was her third language, which she learned in bilingual classes at Brooklyn’s Intermediate School...
(The entire section is 682 words.)
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Danticat’s fiction is informed by her own experiences as a Haitian American and as an immigrant. But she infuses her experience with a compelling voice and well-drawn characters that illustrate the complex themes that are woven into her work. Her writing explores how people can “live between two worlds,” how social class and color exert powerful forces on people’s lives, how the major upheavals of history affect individuals, and how the mother-daughter relationship resonates throughout the lives of women. Most of all, Danticat’s work centers on relationships and the ways that relationships are affected by difficult times. To be certain, many of her characters undergo great hardships and tragedies. Most of the time, the bitterness is tempered with a share of sweetness or tenderness.
Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Edwidge Danticat was born on January 19, 1969, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the eldest child of André Miracin Danticat and Rose Danticat. Her father emigrated to the United States (New York) when Danticat was two years old; her mother emigrated when Danticat was four years old, leaving her and her brother, Eliab, in the care of an aunt and uncle in Haiti. The siblings joined their parents and two New York-born younger brothers in Brooklyn when Danticat was twelve years old. The members of her extended family in Haiti and the stories and traditions that she learned there were major influences on her later writing.
Danticat was raised speaking Haitian Creole, and she was educated in French while in Haiti. As a teenager in Brooklyn, she began to write in English, her third language. She majored in French literature at Barnard College and graduated from there in 1990. Danticat went on to earn a master of fine arts degree in writing from Brown in 1993. A version of her graduate thesis was published as her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory.
Danticat’s second novel, The Farming of Bones, a rich and mature work based on the 1937 massacre of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, was published in 1998. The Farming of Bones was followed by work in editing, translation, and film. In 2002, Danticat published her first full-length nonfiction work, After the Dance, and a novel for young adults, Behind the Mountains (2002). This novel, presented in the form of the diary of a teenage Haitian girl who is reunited with her family in Brooklyn after eight years’ separation, is a coming-of-age story reflecting the stress of emigration on families.
Danticat moved from New York to Miami’s Little Haiti and was married in 2002 to Faidherbe “Fedo” Boyer, owner of a service offering creole-language translation. She and her husband have one child, daughter Mira Boyer.
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Edwidge Danticat (DAN-tih-cah), the first African Haitian woman author to write in English, emerged on the contemporary literary scene as one of the United States’ most creative young artists. Krik? Krak!, a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award in 1995, brought Danticat to the attention of literary critics and media. In 1998, television host Oprah Winfrey chose Breath, Eyes, Memory for her book club, catapulting the novel into best-seller status. Danticat’s stories have been published in more than twenty-five journals. She has also edited several collections of Haitian writings.
When Danticat was two years old, her father emigrated to the United States, where he found a job driving a taxicab. Her mother followed him two years later to work in a textile factory, leaving Edwidge and her younger brother to the temporary care of an aunt and uncle. At the age of twelve, Danticat arrived in Brooklyn, where she had to adjust to two new brothers, learn English, and endure the stereotyping of Haitian immigrants as “boat people.” She nonetheless thrived in school, was accepted at Barnard College, where she majored in French literature, and went on to Brown University on a full scholarship to earn a master of fine arts degree.
The inspiration for Breath, Eyes, Memory, Danticat’s first novel, was an essay she wrote for a high school newspaper about her childhood in Haiti. The novel begins as the first-person narrator, Sophie Caco, is summoned to New York, leaving behind the aunt she loves in order to live with a mother she barely recalls. The new relationship is deeply troubled, complicated by cultural conflict and the...
(The entire section is 687 words.)
Edwidge Danticat (pronounced ‘‘Edweedj Danticah’’) was born January 19, 1969, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and was separated from her father when she was two and he emigrated to the United States to find work. When she was four, her mother also went to the United States. For the next eight years, Danticat and her younger brother Eliab were raised by their father's brother, a minister, who lived with his wife and grandson in a poor section of Port-au-Prince known as Bel Air.
When Danticat was twelve, she moved to Brooklyn and joined her parents and two new younger brothers. Adjustment to this new family was difficult, and she also had difficulty adjusting at school, because she spoke only Creole and did not know any English. Other students taunted her as a Haitian ‘‘boat person,’’ or refugee. She told Mallay Charters in Publishers Weekly, ‘‘My primary feeling the whole first year was one of loss. Loss of my childhood, and of the people I'd left behind—and also of being lost. It was like being a baby—learning everything for the first time.’’
Danticat learned to tell stories from her aunt's grandmother in Bel Air, an old woman whose long hair, with coins braided into it, fascinated the neighborhood children, who fought each other to comb it. When people gathered, she told folktales and family stories. ‘‘It was call-and-response,’’ Danticat told Charters. ‘‘If the audience seemed bored, the story would speed up, and if they were participating, a song would go in. The whole interaction was exciting to me. These cross-generational exchanges didn't happen often, because children were supposed to respect their elders. But when you were telling stories, it was more equal, and fun.’’
Danticat's cousin, Marie Micheline, taught her to read. She told Renee H. Shea in Belles Lettres, ‘‘I started school when I was three, and she would read to me when I came home. In 1987 … there was a shooting outside her house—where her children were. She had a seizure and died. Since I was away from her, my parents didn't tell me right away.… But around that same time, I was having nightmares; somehow I knew.’’
When Danticat was seven, she wrote stories with a Haitian heroine. For her, writing was not a casual undertaking. ‘‘At the time that I started thinking about writing,’’ she told Calvin Wilson in the Kansas City Star, ‘‘a lot of people who were in jail were writers. They were journalists, they were novelists, and many of them were killed or ‘disappeared.’ It was a very scary thing to think about.’’ Nevertheless, she kept writing. After she moved to Brooklyn and learned English, she wrote stories for her high school newspaper. One of these articles, about her reunion with her mother at age twelve, eventually expanded to become the book Breath, Eyes, Memory.
Danticat graduated from Barnard College with a degree in French literature in 1990, and worked as a secretary, doing her writing after work in the office. She applied to business schools and creative writing programs. She was accepted by both, but chose Brown University's creative writing program, which offered her a full scholarship. For her master's thesis, she wrote what would later become Breath, Eyes, Memory.
Breath, Eyes, Memory.and her two other books—The Farming of Bones and Krik? Krak! , a collection of stories—have been hailed for their lyrical intensity, vivid descriptions of Haitian places and people, and honest depictions of fear and pain.
Danticat has won a Granta Regional Award as one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists, a Pushcart Prize, and fiction awards from Seventeen and Essence magazines. She is also the recipient of an ongoing grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation.
Biography (Short Stories for Students)
IntroductionEdwidge Danticat is one of the few successful Haitian authors to write in English. Danticat’s parents moved from Haiti to New York, leaving Danticat and her brother with an aunt and uncle for many years. She was exposed to storytelling throughout this period, and it greatly influenced her development as a writer later on. Danticat felt very isolated while her parents were away and keenly felt their loss. Even though she moved to New York to join them when she was twelve, she never forgot the pain of being motherless, even for a short time. Her thesis for her MFA in creative writing was published in 1994. While not purely autobiographical, the work does deal with a young Haitian woman and her struggle to assimilate into American society.
- Danticat’s first attempt at writing came when she received a set of Madeleine books. She then wrote Madeleine stories with herself as the main character.
- After earning her MFA, Danticat worked for filmmaker Jonathan Demme. One of her jobs was as an associate producer for a documentary about torture in Haiti called Courage and Pain.
- Danticat published a collection of short stories in 1995 called Krik? Krak! The title is based on her native Creole language. The question “Krik?” is equivalent to asking permission to tell a story. The reply “Krak!” means, “Sure!”
- In 1998, Breath, Eyes, Memory became an Oprah’s Book Club selection.
- Krik? Krak! was nominated for the National Book Award in 1995.