Edwidge Danticat Biography

Edwidge Danticat Biography

Edwidge 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.

Facts and Trivia

  • 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.


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 320. Her teen years were difficult. Danticat felt like an outsider at school, because she was...

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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...

(The entire section is 127 words.)


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...

(The entire section is 306 words.)