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From Haiti with Love: Q&A with Author Edwidge Danticat

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Edwidge Danticat moved from Haiti to the United States when she was 12 and draws on that immigrant experience, filled with history, suffering, and love to portray the complex  realities of past and present Haiti. At 41 she has written more than ten books and dabbled in several different genres, including novels, memoirs, social criticisms, young adult novels, edited anthologies, and even travel books. She has won numerous awards and received critical praise for novels like Breath, Eyes, Memory, Krik? Krak!, and The Farming of Bones.

Danticat will be appearing at two Miami Book Fair events to discuss new books: Create Dangerously: the Immigrant Artist at Work, a collection of personal essays, and Haiti Noir, an anthology of stories that take place in Haiti written by several authors across the diaspora. New Times spoke to the Miami resident about the effect of the earthquake on her book, writing about personal experiences, and art as therapy.

New Times: Haiti Noir is set to be published in January 2011. Will a lot of the stories deal with the earthquake?

Edwidge Danticat: Only two. We'd almost wrapped up the book when the earthquake happened,

and afterward we kept getting more submissions that had to do with it so

we decided to incorporate a few. But the stories in general, even the

ones that don't have to do with the earthquake, could still be relevant

in Haiti today. That was one of the things I was concerned about because

when a place changes so much you think--will the stories still matter?

And they certainly did--they're still very poignant. And it shows that

art transcends the moment.

Create Dangerously discusses with the role of the immigrant artist. What do you see as your role?

I always hope, whenever I write, that it's engaging and entertaining.

But because of my own passion for Haiti, I do also hope that it gives

people a desire to learn more and more about the country. I've also

edited these anthologies because I hope that when people are finished

reading they will say, "Oh I want to pick up something longer by these

writers." Maybe more of them will be translated into English.

Is it difficult to write about topics in your novels that are so

incredibly personal and raw--family, death of loved ones, injustices

suffered by people close to you?

I feel like in personal interactions with people I'm not necessarily

that open, but when I'm writing I feel the freedom to do it. I feel

totally free, and I feel like I can worry about the rest of it

afterwards like [people saying] "Oh, why did you write that?" Thankfully

in the writing moment itself I don't have those fears.

Is it a sort of therapy?

I wouldn't say therapy because that's a big load on the reader. It's not

fair to a reader to make them my therapist (laughs). But there's a kind

of release in it. I feel like a lot of writers would feel they were

less sane if they weren't doing what they are doing. I know a lot of

visual artists who say that, too--that they feel like they would be crazy

if they didn't have that portal, you know, that outlet.

The Miami Book Fair will be taking place at Miami Dade College (300 NE

Second Ave., Miami). Edwidge Danticat will be reading from Create

Dangerously: the Immigrant Artist at Work on Saturday, November 20 at

3:30 p.m. in the Chapman Conference Center (Building 3, 2nd Floor, Room

3210). The event is free, but a ticket is required. She will discuss

Haiti Noir on Sunday, November 21 at noon at the Presentation Pavilion

(NE Third St. and First Ave.) and admission is free. Call 305-237-3258

or visit miamibookfair.com.

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