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...
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