Edwidge Danticat 1969–
Haitian-born American novelist and short story writer.
Winner of a Pushcart Short Story Prize and a finalist for a National Book Award in 1995, Danticat has received positive critical attention for her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994), and her short story collection Krik? Krak! (1995).
Born in Haiti, Danticat was separated from her parents at the age of four when they emigrated to the United States. In 1981 she joined her family in Brooklyn, New York. Recognized for her depictions of the Haitian experience both in Haiti and the United States, Danticat has been described by Margaria Fichtner as a writer whose work "has much to say about what it is like to be young, black, Haitian and female wandering in a world too often eager to regard all of those conditions as less than worthwhile."
Breath, Eyes, Memory, told through the eyes of Sophie Caco, details the lives of four generations of Haitian women as they struggle against poverty, violence, and prejudice in Haiti and the United States. Encompassing contemporary Haitian history, the novel portrays the country's recent upheavals at the hands of the Duvalier regime and its brutal secret police, the Tonton Macoutes. While the stories in Krik? Krak!—the title refers to a Haitian storytelling game in which one person's story is exchanged for another—employ a wide range of plot types and characters, each story is, as Ellen Kanner has explained, "part of the same tale. Women lose who and what they love to poverty, to violence, to politics, to ideals."
Most commentators have found Danticat's works to be powerful fictions conveyed with sure-handed style. Breath, Eyes, Memory has been praised by many critics for its lyric language, which off-sets and counterpoints the novel's at times dire subject matter. Some reviewers of the novel suggested that Danticat did not display complete control of her material in this book, lavishing detailed descriptive passages on things and events that did not warrant them. But most point out that this is a flaw common to many first novels. Critics have lauded Krik? Krak! for the diversity of narrative voices and literary styles presented in the stories. Danticat is again praised for making potentially downbeat material readable and enjoyable through her skillful, lyrical use of language. Critics have noted that some of the stories reveal a too self-conscious manipulation of form and structure, a false note of "preciousness" that detracts from their realism. Most critics agree with Richard Eder, however, that the "best of [the stories], using the island tradition of a semi-magical folktale, or the witty, between-two-worlds voices of modern urban immigrants, are pure beguiling transformation."