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Edwidge Danticat
Danticat, September 2019
Danticat, September 2019
Born (1969-01-19) January 19, 1969 (age 55)
Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Occupation Writer
Nationality Haitian-American
Period 1994–present
Genre Novels, short stories

Edwidge Danticat (Haitian Creole pronunciation: [ɛdwidʒ dãtika]; born January 19, 1969) is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, was published in 1994 and went on to become an Oprah's Book Club selection. Danticat has since written or edited several books and has been the recipient of many awards and honors. As of the fall of 2023, she will be the Wun Tsun Tam Mellon Professor of the Humanities in the department of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University.

Early life

Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When she was twelve years old, her father André immigrated to New York, to be followed two years later by her mother Rose. This left Danticat and her younger brother, also named André, to be raised by her aunt and uncle. When asked in an interview about her traditions as a child, she included storytelling, church, and constantly studying school material as all part of growing up. Although her formal education in Haiti was in French, she spoke Haitian Creole at home.

While still in Haiti, Danticat began writing at nine years of age. She later wrote another story about her immigration experience for New Youth Connections, "A New World Full of Strangers". In the introduction to Starting With I, an anthology of stories from the magazine, Danticat wrote: "When I was done with the [immigration] piece, I felt that my story was unfinished, so I wrote a short story, which later became a book, my first novel: Breath, Eyes, Memory...Writing for New Youth Connections had given me a voice. My silence was destroyed completely, indefinitely."

After graduating from Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, New York, Danticat entered Barnard College in New York City where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1990. Initially she had intended to study to become a nurse, but her love of writing won out and she received a BA in French literature. She received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Brown University in 1993.

Danticat is a strong advocate for issues affecting Haitians abroad and at home. In 2009, she lent her voice and words to Poto Mitan: Haitian Women Pillars of the Global Economy, a documentary about the impact of globalization on five women from different generations.

Personal life

Danticat married Fedo Boyer in 2002. She has two daughters, Mira and Leila. Although Danticat resides in the United States, she still considers Haiti home. To date, she still visits Haiti from time to time and has always felt as if she never left it.


Edwidge Danticat (48794720061) (cropped)
Danticat speaks in 2019

Three themes are prominent in various analyses of Edwidge Danticat's work: national identity, mother-daughter relationships, and diasporic politics.

National identity

Scholars of Danticat's work frequently examine the theme of national identity. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, Danticat explores the relationship between women and the nationalist agenda of the state [i] during the Duvalier regime. ..... However, while the women of Breath, Eyes, Memory replicate "state-sanctioned" control and violation of women's bodies through acts of violence (375), they also "disrupt and challenge the masculinist, nationalist discourse" of the state by using their bodies "as deadly weapons" (387) [i]. ..... Additionally, the novel demonstrates some inherent difficulties of creating a diasporic identity, as illustrated through Sophie's struggle between uniting herself with her heritage and abandoning what she perceives to be the damaging tradition of 'testing,' suggesting the impossibility of creating a resolute creolized personhood [ii]. Finally, Danticat's work, The Farming of Bones, speaks to the stories of those who survived the 1937 massacre, and the effects of that trauma on Haitian identity [iv]. Overall, Danticat makes known the history of her nation while also diversifying conceptions of the country beyond those of victimization [iii].

Mother-daughter relationships

Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory explores the centrality of the mother-daughter relationship to self-identity and self-expression [v]. Sophie's experiences mirror those of her mother's Martine. Just as Martine was forced to submit to a virginity test at the hand of her own mother, she forces the same on Sophie after discovering her relationship with Joseph. As a result, Sophie goes through a period of self- hate, ashamed to show anyone her body, including her husband (80) [viii]. Sophie's struggles to overcome frigidity in relation to intimacy with her husband Joseph, as well as her bulimia parallels Martine's struggle bear a child with Marc to term, as well her insomnia, and detrimental eating habits (61–62) [v]. ..... The pinnacle of this mirroring comes when Sophie chooses to be her mother's Marassa, a double of herself for her mother, to share the pain, the trials and the tribulations, the ultimate connection: to become one with her mother. Marassas represent "sameness and love" as one, they are "inseparable and identical. They love each other because they are alike and always together" [vii]. This connection between Sophie and her mother Martine has also been challenged through Sophie's own connection with her daughter Brigitte: "Martine's totally nihilistic unwillingness to begin again with the draining responsibilities of motherhood comments upon and stands in stark contrast to Sophie's loving desire to bring her daughter Brigitte into the welcoming" (79) [viii].

Diasporic politics

Scholars agree that Danticat manages her relationship with her Haitian history and her bicultural identity through her works by creating a new space within the political sphere. In Breath, Eyes, Memory, Danticat employs the "idea of mobile traditions" as a means of creating new space for Haitian identity in America, one that is neither a "happy hybridity" nor an "unproblematic creolization" of Flatbush Brooklyn (28) [ix]. Danticat's open reference to and acceptance of her Caribbean predecessors, especially through the "grand narratives of the dead iconic fathers of Haitian literature," creates a "new community [...] in luminal extra-national spaces" that "situates her narrative" in a place that is neither "absolute belonging" nor "postcolonial placelessness" (34) [ix]. Suggestive of the Haitian literary movement Indigenism, in which works sought to connect to the land of Haiti and the "plight of the peasant class" (55) [x], Sophie's complex reality in Breath, Eyes, Memory encapsulates the transnational experience (61) [x]. Translations of Breath, Eyes, Memory, especially those in France, contain slight alterations and "clumsy" replacement of creol/Caribbean terms that shift the empowered stance of Danticat's works to one of victimization, mirroring the fight authors face for a new political space in which dual Caribbean identity is accepted (68) [x]. Danticat's short story cycles in Krik? Krak! demonstrates "a symbolic weaving together" of her works and the transnational communities, including "Haitians, immigrants, women, [and] mothers and daughters," that she attempts to unite (75) [xi]. Through her "voicing the intersubjective experience of a community," Danticat distinguishes herself from other Haitian prose authors (73, 76) [xi]. She creates a space for the "voicelessness" of those unable to "speak their individual experience" (76) [xi]. Danticat's short stories uphold an undivided experience, one that politically aligns itself with an "egalitarian regime of rights and the rule of law" (81) [xi]. The political space in which such a single experience can exist is the means through which Danticat's transnational identity and her characters can survive.

Another work of Danticat's is her travel narrative After the Dance: A Walk through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (2002). She believes it provides readers with an inside look and feel of Haiti's cultural legacy, practices related to Lent, its Carnival, and the Haitian Revolution. She embarks on a journey through her work to recover the lost cultural markers of Haiti while also being marked by the Haitian geopolitical privilege and by her own privilege of mobility. Due to her active traveling privilege, she considered herself an "outsider" of Jacmel even though she did originate from Haiti. She explains: "This is the first time I will be an active reveler at a carnival in Haiti. I am worried that such an admission would appear strange for someone for whom carnival is one of life's passions...As a child living in Haiti...I had never been allowed to 'join the carnival' ... it was considered not safe for me...Since I had an intense desire to join the carnival as some peculiar American children have of joining the circus, my uncle for years spun frightening tales around it to keep me away." She said in her narrative of going back to Jacmel, "I was still wearing my own mask of a distant observer." Because of this, she advises her reader to look observe her work from the perspective of a diasporic returnee rather than of an insider.

Awards and honors

Danticat has won fiction awards from Essence and Seventeen magazines, was named "1 of 20 people in their twenties who will make a difference" in Harper's Bazaar, was featured in The New York Times Magazine as one of "30 under 30" people to watch, and was called one of the "15 Gutsiest Women of the Year" by Jane magazine.

  • 1994: Fiction Award The Caribbean Writer
  • 1995: Woman of Achievement Award, Barnard College
  • Pushcart Short Story Prize for "Between the Pool and the Gardenias"
  • National Book Award nomination for Krik? Krak!
  • 1996: Granta magazine's Best Young American Novelists
  • Lila-Wallace-Reader's Digest Grant
  • 1999: American Book Award for The Farming of Bones
  • The International Flaiano Prize for literature
  • The Super Flaiano Prize for The Farming of Bones
  • 2005: The Story Prize for The Dew Breaker
  • 2005: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for "The Dew Breaker"
  • 2007: National Book Award nomination for Brother, I'm Dying
  • 2007: The National Book Critics Circle Award for Brother, I'm Dying
  • 2008: Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Brother, I'm Dying
  • 2008: Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award for Brother, I'm Dying
  • 2009: MacArthur Fellows Program Genius grant
  • 2009: The Nicolas Guillen Philosophical Literature Prize, Caribbean Philosophical Association
  • 2011: Langston Hughes Medal, City College of New York
  • 2011: OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for Create Dangerously
  • 2012: Smith College Honorary Degree
  • 2013: Yale University Honorary Degree
  • 2014: Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, shortlist for Claire of the Sea Light
  • 2014: PEN Oakland – Josephine Miles Literary Award
  • 2017: Honorary Doctor of Letters (DLitt) degree from the University of the West Indies Open Campus
  • 2017: Neustadt International Prize for Literature
  • 2018: Presidents Award, St. Martin Book Fair.
  • 2019: National Book Critics Circle Award (Fiction) winner for Everything Inside
  • 2020: The Story Prize for Everything Inside
  • 2020: Vilcek Foundation Prize in Literature



  • Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)
  • The Farming of Bones (1998)
  • The Dew Breaker (2004)
  • Claire of the Sea Light (2013)

Short story collections

  • Krik? Krak! (1996)
  • Everything Inside (2019)


  • Behind the Mountains (young adult novel, 2002)
  • Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490 (young adult novel, 2005)
  • The Last Mapou (children's novel, January 2013)
  • Untwine (young adult novel, October 2015)

Edited anthologies

  • The Butterfly's Way (anthology editor)
  • Best American Essays, 2011 (anthology editor, October 2011)
  • Haiti Noir 2: The Classics (anthology editor, January 2014)


  • After the Dance: A Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (travel book, 2002)
  • Brother, I'm Dying (memoir/social criticism, 2007)
  • Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (essay collection, 2010)
  • Eight Days: A Story of Haiti (picture book, 2010)
  • Tent Life: Haiti (essay contributor, 2011)
  • Haiti Noir (anthology editor, 2011)
  • Mama's Nightingale (picture book, September, 2015)
  • The Art of Death (biography, July 2017)
  • My Mommy Medicine (picture book, February 2019)


  • Poto Mitan – Writer/Narrator, 2009
  • Girl Rising (Haiti) – Writer, 2013

Translations into English

  • Jacques Stephen Alexis - L'Espace d'un cillement (1959). In the Flicker of an Eyelid, trans. Carrol F. Coates and Edwidge Danticat (2002).

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Edwidge Danticat para niños

  • Caribbean literature
  • Postcolonial literature
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