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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Edwidge Danticat won MacArthur genius award

CSMS Magazine Staff Writers

Famously known for such powerful books as The Farming of Bones and Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat has just clinched the highest prestigious award yet of her career.  Danticat was a the recipient of the “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation A five-hundred-thousand-dollar grant was attached to the win, which placed Danticat as the most valued Haitian writer in North America. News of Edwidge’s win sent an awesome glee to the heart of many Haitians living in The United States, especially the literary community, and the mainstream media took notice.  Danticat, 40, has been getting praises after praises from all over, and an army of news organizations have rushed to get a piece of her fame.

      This is not the first time Edwidge has received praises for her works. She has done it many times before for her portrayal of the struggles of Haitian migrants. She was among 24 artists, scientists, columnists and social activist that the Chicago-based organization has chosen on Tuesday.

      According to the Assosiated Press, Danticat will receive the grant over a five year period. In an interview on NPR, National Public Radio, Danticat confirmed that she will put the money to good use, saying that “My experience or whatever talent I have is not unique: there are probably thousands of others like me in Haiti or here. The difference is I’ve had some opportunity.”
      Danticat’s books have been picked up by some of the most prestigious book clubs in The United States, including Oprah’s Book Club. According to her own testimony on NPR, the Haitian novelist confirmed she had no idea she was even being considered for the “genius grant” until program director Daniel Socolow called her Miami home early last week. Danticat said the prize will allow her to take time off from University of Miami, where she teaches creative writing, to focus on her writing, including a novel still in the works.

Haitian literature being put in display

One must say that Edwidge’s success is a testimony of how gut-wrenching and how compelling Haitian literature is perceived in literary venues around the world.  Haitian literature is the true synthesis of a people yearning for social justice. It is the quintessential expression of human suffering. It is an infinite story being told between the dazzling alleys of moving novelistic prose. From Jacques Roumain to Jacques Stephen Alexis to Marie Chauvet etc.. and now with Danticat, one gets the sense he/she is being weaving through a literary promenade—an infinite stride that brings nothing but a thirst for justice.  

       Edwidge herself admitted this in an interview with CSMS magazine last May (You can read the entire interview by clicking on this link A candid conversation with renowned author Edwidge Danticat ). She admitted that her works are greatly influenced by Alexis, Roumain and Chauvet. “The Alexis influence is there, of course. Just as in some ways The Dew Breaker has a Jacques Roumain influence and Breath, Eyes, Memory has a Marie Chauvet influence, sort of. My work is very much influenced by an earlier generation of Haitian writers. Their influence mixed with the African American, Caribbean and Latin American and other North American and immigrant writers make for an interesting stew,” she told Dr. Ardain Isma.

       In fact, The Farming of Bones, was drawn form Alexis’ famous novel Compère Général Soleil, an intriguing tale, retracing the massacre of some 30, 000 Haitians peasants in the Dominican Republic in 1938.  Compère Général Soleil was translated in many languages worldwide, including in English under the title General Sun, My Brother translated by Carrol Coates, who later collaborated with Danticat in an Alexis other novel L’espace d’un Cillement translated into English as In the Flicker of an Eyelid.   

      Edwidge Danticat is also playing the role as ambassador of Haitian literature in North America. Well aware of her role, she plans to devote some time to helping young promising Haitian authors.

Also see A candid conversation with renowned author Edwidge Danticat 

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Interview with renowned writer Carrol Coates

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