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Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer who has left an indelible mark on the literary world. She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haití, on January 19, 1969. Her passion for writing emerged at the age of 9, during her childhood in Haiti.

At the age of  12, she emigrated with her father from Haiti to New York, where she later wrote a story about her immigration experience for the magazine New Youth Connections, the story was titled “A New World Full of Strangers”.

Her powerful narratives explore themes of identity, memory, and the human experience, especially the Haitian experience. In this blog post, we will delve into the remarkable journey of Edwidge Danticat.

Breath, Eyes, Memory: A Debut Masterpiece

Danticat burst onto the literary scene with her debut novel, “Breath, Eyes, Memory”, published in 1994. This poignant work weaves together the lives of women across generations, exploring the complexities of family, love, and trauma. The novel’s lyrical prose and vivid characters resonated deeply with readers, earning it a coveted spot in Oprah’s Book Club and setting the stage for a career that has been both prolific and impactful.

Since her debut, Danticat has continued to captivate readers with her evocative storytelling. She has authored and edited several books, each a testament to her literary prowess. Her works traverse cultural boundaries, bridging the gap between Haiti and America, and shedding light on the immigrant experience.

Additionally, Danticat’s contributions have not gone unnoticed. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award and the MacArthur Fellowship (often referred to as the “genius grant”). Her ability to evoke emotion through her words has solidified her place among literary luminaries.

Edwidge Danticat
Edwidge Danticat. Illustration by Jillian Tamaki

Academic Excellence

Upon completing her education at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, New York, Edwige Danticat pursued higher education at Barnard College, located in the heart of New York City. She achieved academic distinction, earning membership in the esteemed Phi Beta Kappa society upon her graduation in 1990. Although she initially considered a career in nursing, Danticat’s passion for writing ultimately prevailed, leading her to obtain a Bachelor of Arts in French literature. Her academic journey continued at Brown University, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 1993.

As of the fall of 2023, Danticat holds the esteemed position of the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor of the Humanities in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University.

An advocate for Haitian and immigrants' rights

In addition to her literary and academic accomplishments, Danticat has been a vocal proponent of Haitian issues, both for those living in Haiti and the diaspora. In 2009, she contributed her narrative talents to the documentary “Poto Mitan: Haitian Women Pillars of the Global Economy,” which examines the effects of globalization through the experiences of five Haitian women from various age groups.  Her commitment to education and dedication to amplifying marginalized voices continue to inspire students and scholars alike.

Edwidge Danticat’s literary journey is one of resilience, empathy, and unwavering passion. Through her words, she invites us to explore the depths of our shared humanity. As readers, we are fortunate to witness her brilliance unfold across the pages of her novels and stories.

We invite you to learn more about Edwige, her novels, short stories, and non-fiction pieces, and her remarkable journey in promoting Haitian identity and culture through her work and advocacy.