Edwidge Danticat

Novelist, short story writer, memoirist

Edwidge Danticat (born January 19, 1969) is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer.

Edwidge Danticat

Quotes edit

  • When you write, it’s like braiding your hair...Taking a handful of coarse, unruly strands and attempting to bring them into unity. . . . Some of the braids are long, others are short. Some are thick, others are thin. Some are heavy. Others are light.
    • Krik? Krak! (1996)
  • he reminded himself of his own personal creed, that life was neither something you defended by hiding nor surrendered calmly on other people’s terms, but something you lived bravely, out in the open, and that if you had to lose it, you should also lose it on your own terms.
    • The Dew Breaker (2004)
  • The greatest gift anyone can give to a writer is time
    • 2010 interview included in Conversations with Edwidge Danticat edited by Maxine Lavon Montgomery (2017)
  • “No one will ever love you more than you love your pain,” he had replied, his words ringing even louder in the dark.
    • Claire of the Sea Light (2013)
  • I just fell in love with the idea of writing about the sea, and there are many proverbs the sea in Haitian Creole. You know, one is ... 'The sea doesn't hide dirt,' and proverbs about, you know, 'My back is as large as the sea,' which is something you say if people start talking badly about you. And, of course, for a lot of people in terms of migration, the sea is also the way out. So, you have an island and you have the sea, and it's extraordinarily fascinating to me.
  • Along with plot, I am always thinking about structure. Sometimes the story guides you to the best structure for its telling. Using letters seemed like the best way to tell this story. When writing these letters, the characters are selecting what they want to tell. In this case, the woman is writing in a way that would not endanger her or her family if her letters were found by the military authorities who took over the country, and the man is writing with the urgency of someone who could die at any minute while at sea.
  • In some of the earlier work, I liked to keep readers guessing: one story asked a question, and another resolved it. For the stories I’m working on now—both the new ones and the older ones I’m revisiting—I want to wring everything out. That way, I don’t have to write separate stories for every character who surprises me.
  • Well, I think that when I’m writing about Haiti, I’m just writing one long, ongoing story. But I really did feel, like a lot of people did, that after the earthquake, there were suddenly two Haitis: the Haiti of before the earthquake and the Haiti of after the earthquake. So I feel that I’ve been writing about the first one much longer. And writing about the earthquake... it’s been such a short period of time and it’s still such a raw experience that the few things that I’ve written about it, I feel like I’ve written them to process it myself.
  • It wasn't easy, but it was the lot of so many of us, and even in the house where I was growing up, my aunt and uncle were looking after my cousins whose mother was in Canada, and another cousin whose father was in the Dominican Republic. And our parents had made this choice so that we could have a better life. You know, they could have either stayed with us and struggled and tried to make a living, or they thought that they could carve out a future for us by going abroad and leaving us behind, and then later sending for us…
  • Loving Haiti, you know, comes in the blood. And loving America, being grateful for what it's afforded my family, there are so many Americans now in my family. That's what also makes it sad to see what's happening now, in terms of how new immigrants are being scapegoated, to hear about children who could have been myself, dying at the border for lack of medical care…

Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) edit

  • First novels are a lot like first children. You lavish all your love and attention on them, but you also make all your rookie mistakes on them. First novels teach you how to write. They are your initial opportunity to put into practice everything you’ve heard about long-haul narrative. They’re your primary attempt at trying to walk in the footsteps of the giant (and not so giant) writers you revere and adore.
  • Tante Atie once said that love is like the rain. It comes in a drizzle sometimes. Then it starts pouring and if you're not careful it will drown you.
  • If a woman is worth remembering,' said my grandmother, 'there is no need to have her name carved in letters.
  • It is the calm and silent waters that drown you.
  • The things one does, one should do out of love.
  • That night, I slept hugging my secret.

The Farming of Bones (1998) edit

  • Misery won't touch you gentle. It always leaves its thumbprints on you; sometimes it leaves them for others to see, sometimes for nobody but you to know of.
  • I wish I could've done more for her, but some sorrows were simply too individual to share.
  • “Old age is not meant to be survived alone," Man Rapadou said, her voice trailing with her own hidden thoughts. "Death should come gently, slowly, like a man's hand approaching your body. There can be joy in impatience if there is time to find the joy.”
  • I once heard an elder say that the dead who have no use for their words leave them as part of their children's inheritance. Proverbs, teeth suckings, obscenities, even grunts and moans once inserted in special places during conversations, all are passed along to the next heir.
  • a lifetime can be vast as a hundred years or sudden as a few breaths? Enjoy this one you have left. It all passes so fast. In the time it takes to draw a breath.
  • Freedom is a passing thing, a man said. Someone can always come and snatch it away.

Interview (2003) edit

  • Often when we migrate, we find ourselves with these types of persons—the torturers and the victims mixed together in the same neighborhood.
  • (Faulkner said, “The past is never dead—it’s not even past.”) Danticat: Exactly. Especially in the case of people who have migrated from other places. We try so hard to keep some aspects of the past with us and forget others, but often we don’t get to choose. We try to keep the beautiful memories, but other things from the past creep up on us. The past is like the hair on our head. I moved to New York when I was twelve, but you always have this feeling that wherever you come from, you physically leave it, but it doesn’t leave you.
  • In the 1980s, when people were just beginning to talk about AIDS, there were just a few categories of those who were at high risk: homosexuals, hemophiliacs, heroin addicts, and Haitians. We were the only ones identified by nationality. Then it seemed from the media that we were being told that all Haitians had AIDS. At the time, I had just come from Haiti. I was twelve years old, and the building I was living in had primarily Haitians. A lot of people got fired from their jobs. At school, sometimes in gym class, we’d be separated because teachers were worried about what would happen if we bled. So there was really this intense discrimination. The FDA placed us on the list of people who could not give blood. So AIDS was something that was put upon us, and we were immediately identified with it. That is unfair. That is unjust. I always say, “We are all people living with AIDS.” It’s not like you can avoid it. It’s part of our world.
  • What do you think of Bush’s attack on Iraq? Danticat: That situation could have been resolved in a different way. And the justification—the idea that we have a right to invade another country and determine another people’s destiny—is frightening. And I fear really for the future of that occupation. What happens now, and twenty years from now, and forty years from now, given our case? People in the United States may feel like when we don’t see it on CNN twenty-four hours a day, it sort of disappears. But it doesn’t disappear for the people who have to live under occupation—and their children and their children’s children.
  • (Q: Masks are a big part of Carnival. You seem drawn to them. Why?) Danticat: Even when I think of writing fiction, it’s being kind of a liar, a storyteller, a weaver, and there’s that sense of how much of this is your life. The story is a way you unravel your life from behind a mask. But the idea of just putting on a mask in a big crowd where you can be anybody was always something that was interesting to me because sometimes when we’re most shielded is when we are boldest. And, being a shy child, I always longed for a mask. Even in my adult life, I have glasses, they are my mask. When I meet people for the first time, I always put on my glasses because I feel like that’s a little something extra between me and them. It’s like the Laurence Dunbar poem “We Wear the Mask.” I think we all wear some kind of mask. There are masks that shield us from others, but there are masks that embolden us, and you see that in carnival. The shiest child puts on a mask and can do anything and be anybody. So sometimes we mask ourselves to further reveal ourselves, and it’s always been connected to me with being a writer: We tell lies to tell a greater truth. The story is a mask; the characters you create are masks. That appeals to me. Aside from that, too, in the carnival the masks were beautiful, and offered a vision of Haitian creativity.

Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (2010) edit

  • One of the advantages of being an immigrant is that two very different countries are forced to merge within you. The language you were born speaking and the one you will probably die speaking have no choice but to find a common place in your brain and regularly merge there. So too with catastrophes and disasters, which inevitably force you to rethink facile allegiances. (Chapter 8, p 112)

"Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work" (Chapter 1) edit

  • Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I've always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them. Coming from where I come from, with the history I have having spent the first twelve years of my life under both dictatorships of Papa Doc and his son, Jean-Claude-this is what I've always seen as the unifying principle among all writers. This is what, among other things, might join Albert Camus and Sophocles to Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Osip Mandelstam, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Ralph Waldo Ellison. Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, a future that we may have yet to dream of, someone may risk his or her life to read us. Somewhere, if not now, then maybe years in the future, we may also save someone's life (or mind) because they have given us a passport, making us honorary citizens of their culture.
  • All artists, writers among them, have several stories-one might call them creation myths-that haunt and obsess them.
  • Some of us think we are accidents of literacy. I do. We think we are people who might not have been able to go to school at all, who might never have learned to read and write. We think we are the children of people who have lived in the shadows for too long.
  • Reading, and perhaps ultimately writing, is nothing like living in a place and time where two very young men are killed in a way that is treated like entertainment.
  • The nomad or immigrant who learns something rightly must always ponder travel and movement, just as the grief-stricken must inevitably ponder death.
  • Perhaps, just as Alice Walker writes of her own forebears in her essay "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens," my blood ancestors-unlike my literary ancestors-were so weather-beaten, terror-stricken, and maimed that they were stifled. As a result, those who somehow managed to create became, in my view, martyrs and saints.

Quotes about Edwidge Danticat edit

  • These writers cry out against the effects of colonization, unfettered imperialism, and corporate globalization on billions of people, as well as on the planet itself. Their rage is haunting. Who can forget the saying of poor Haitian women under slavery and colonial oppression, as recalled here by Edwidge Danticat: "We are ugly, but we are here"? And here to stay, Danticat adds. "Every once in a while, we must scream this as far as the wind can carry our voices," she writes.
    • Elizabeth Martinez 2003 preface to Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean

External links edit

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