Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat immigrated to the United States when she was 12 to join her parents, who had fled the oppressive regime of François Duvalier a decade earlier. The themes of a dual identity and family lost, gained, and left behind run deep in her extensive literary portfolio.
She is the featured speaker at the annual Rosie’s Place Funny Women…Serious Business luncheon (Oct. 16) celebrating President Sue Marsh’s 20th anniversary. Danticat’s experiences as a woman and an immigrant in this country bring her a kind of kinship with the recipients of Rosie’s Place’s services.
“I think we can learn as much from women who we are supposed to be helping as they can learn from us,” she tells Exhale. “I’m looking forward to meeting and hearing from some of these women, then sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned throughout my life as a child of immigrants in the United States who didn’t always have a lot of resources.”
Danticat’s most recent book The Art of Death discusses grief, in literary terms and in regard to the death of Danticat’s mother. The result is part philosophy, part memoir, and part analysis of grief.
Equally personal, her book Brother, I’m Dying, a New York Times Notable Book, centers on her uncle who became a surrogate father to her while growing up in Haiti. Purchasing this or another of Danticat’s books through AmazonSmile will result in a donation being made to Rosie’s Place. Her upcoming releases continue exploring the themes of family and relationships.
“I just finished a collection of short stories which will be published in August 2019. It’s called Everything Inside,” Danticat reveals. “They are all love stories in some ways, about the kind of love we are always seeking. You might say they are stories that say everything inside of us matters.”
I believe that all our voices are needed. Some of us have something to wrap it around and people who are listening, but every voice is as necessary as ever.
Danticat will be releasing her latest children’s book next spring, a picture book illustrated by Shannon Wright called My Mommy Medicine. “It’s about a glorious day spent at home with her mother when a little girl is sick. It’s a book that was inspired by sick days spent at home with my daughters,” Danticat says.
She is also well known for her explorations of a multicultural identity. Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah’s Book Club selection, is a fictional telling of a girl’s journey from Haiti to the United States, heavily informed by Danticat’s own experience.
Though humble about her own talents, Danticat says, “I believe that all our voices are needed. Some of us have something to wrap it around and people who are listening, but every voice is as necessary as ever.” The nonfiction travelogue After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti also speaks to her formative years in Port-au-Prince.
Keep picking up your pen, your keyboard, whatever medium you use…Don’t let others discourage you or make you feel small. Even if it’s just for your sanity, keep at it.
At the Rosie’s Place luncheon, Danticat says she hopes to pass along some of the strength and wisdom the women in her life have bestowed upon her. To female authors, and women in general, she gives this advice: “Keep picking up your pen, your keyboard, whatever medium you use, and keep working. If you feel alone, find a supportive community. Don’t let others discourage you or make you feel small. Even if it’s just for your sanity, keep at it.”