Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Many of Edwidge Danticat’s characters are immigrants. What are some of the ways that her characters change in response to a new culture? What are some of the ways that they retain their old culture?
The mother-daughter relationship is important in Danticat’s fiction. Discuss the similarities and differences among several of the motherless daughters in her works—for instance, Amabelle and Valencia from The Farming of Bones, Josephine from “Nineteen Thirty-Seven,” Lamort from “The Missing Peace,” and Marie from “Between the Pool and the Gardenias” in Krik? Krak!
In Danticat’s fiction, characters’ names often shed some light onto their traits or experiences. For instance, in The Dew Breaker, the main character’s last name is Bienaimé, which translates roughly as “love well” in French. What is the significance of other character’s names—for instance, Ka from The Dew Breaker, Amabelle and Valencia from The Farming of Bones, and Marie from “Between the Pool and the Gardenias” in Krik? Krak!?
Magical Realism is a term sometimes applied to Danticat’s works. Find and discuss several passages that could be considered Magical Realism.
Danticat’s characters often suffer violence from political or social clashes. How do her characters achieve emotional healing from this kind of violence? Is forgiveness part of their healing?
Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Edwidge Danticat has published in a wide variety of literary forms. Her early plays were produced while she was still a graduate student at Brown University, and her short-story collection Krik? Krak! was published in 1995. Her short stories also have been published in major periodicals and in anthologies. She has edited, written forewords to, and translated the works of other Haitian writers. She has also published novels for children and young adults, including Anacaona, Golden Flower (2005).
Danticat’s nonfiction works include After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (2002), which examines her first visit to carnival in Haiti, and Brother, I’m Dying (2007), an autobiographical account of her elderly uncle’s emigration to Miami and his encounter with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Through her award-winning writings, Edwidge Danticat has brought an awareness of Haitian culture and Haitian immigrant experience to readers in the United States. Her short fiction won a Pushcart Prize, and her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, led to her selection as one of Granta’s Twenty Best Young American Novelists in 1996. The novel also was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, in 1998. Danticat’s short-story collection Krik? Krak! was nominated for a National Book Award in 1995. The Farming of Bones was written with the help of a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation grant and won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. The Dew Breaker was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in 2004 and a PEN/Faulkner Award in 2005. Brother, I’m Dying won the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography in 2007.
Danticat also has written professionally and worked as an educator. She taught creative writing at New York University and the University of Miami, edited anthologies, and worked with filmmakers on documentaries about Haiti and Haitian art.
Danticat’s writings, which have been translated into several languages, form a whole and complement one another to create a larger picture of Haitian and Haitian American experience. She is considered a leading voice for Haitian American women and has been embraced by feminists, the Haitian American community, the literary establishment, and the general reading public.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Danticat, Edwidge. “The Dangerous Job of Edwidge Danticat: An Interview.” Interview by Renee H. Shea. Callaloo 19, no. 2 (January 17, 1996): 382-389. Interview focuses on the centrality of mother-daughter relationships in Danticat’s work.
Shemak, April. “Re-membering Hispaniola: Edwidge Danticat’s The Farming of Bones.” Modern Fiction Studies 48, no. 1 (Spring, 2002): 83-113. Analysis of the novel and detailed discussion of its historical context.
Wucker, Michele. “Edwidge Danticat: A Voice for the Voiceless.” Americas 52, no. 3 (May/June, 2000): 40. Discussion of Danticat’s activism.