Edwidge Danticat--Biographical Sketch

Haitian History
•Dec. 1492: Columbus discovers
Haiti (the island of Hispaniola)
•ca. 1600: Native Carib population
(Taino-Arawak Indians) virtually
wiped out. African slaves begin to
arrive in increasing numbers.
•1600s: Rise of British, French, and
Dutch activity in Caribbean.
•1697: The Spaniards cede the
western third of Hispaniola to the
French crown at the Treaty of
Ryswick. Haiti is now called
"Saint Domingue."
Haitian History 2
•1697-1791: Saint Domingue becomes the richest
colony in the world. Its capital, Cap Francis, is known
as the Paris of the New World.
•August 1791: The first major black rebellion takes
place. This begins the markings of civil war between
the black dominated north and the mulatto dominated
•1796: Toussaint L'Ouverture emerges as the leader of
the former slaves in the north. He restored order, ended
the massacres, and restored some of Saint Domingue's
former prosperity.
Haitian History 3
•January 1804: Jean-Jacques Dessalines proclaimed
the independent black Republic of Haiti in the
northern half of the island (the first independent
country of former slaves in the world). The name
of the new country, "Haiti," is the name that had
been given to the land by the former Taino-Arawak
peoples, meaning "mountainous country."
•1843 to 1915: Haiti sees 22 heads of state, most of
whom leave office by violent means. Rivalry
continues among the whites, the mulatto elite, and
the blacks.
Haitian History 4
•1915: President Guillaume Sam is dismembered and
the Americans invade the country. They remain for
19 years.
•1934: The Americans leave Haiti, which is now
prospering once again.
•1937: Thousands of Haitians living on border of
the Dominican Republic are massacred by General
Trujillo's soldiers. (background to The Farming of Bones)
•1957: Francois Duvalier (“Papa Doc”) was elected
president, terrorized the country, rooting out any
and all opponents to his administration and ensured
Haitian History 5
•his power through his private militia, the tontons
macoutes (which means in kreyol, "uncle
•1964: Duvalier changes the constitution so that he
can be elected president for life.
•1971: Duvalier dies and is succeeded by his son
Jean-Claude, age 19 (also known as 'Baby Doc').
By this time Haiti is the poorest country in the
western hemisphere (and remains so to this day).
•1972: Haitian "boat people" begin to flee to US.
Edwidge Danticat--Biographical Sketch
•born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
January 19, 1969, under the
dictatorship of Duvalier.
•raised by her uncle and aunt
(parents in New York)--moved
to America at 12--remained
silent for most of her teens-“I sought solace in books, read
a lot, and kept journals written
in fragmented Creole, French,
and English."
Edwidge Danticat--Biographical Sketch 2
•wrote her first short story at 9
(about a girl who was visited by a
clan of women each night)
•1990--undergraduate degree in
French from Barnard College.
•wrote Breath, Eyes, Memory as her
MFA thesis at Brown University
•1995--Pushcart Short Story Prize
•List of Works
•Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994)
•Krik? Krak! (1995)
•The Farming of Bones (1998)
Danticat on Literature and Writing
• “Literature is a society mirror. I think that
empathy is necessary for our common surviving.
Literature teaches us to step into the other.
Literature doesn’t only teach the secrets of our
hearts, but of the others’ hearts as well….”
• “For me, writing has always been about bearing
witness and trying to understand who you are and
your writing context in the world. Being a child of
migrants I think my life was always a kind of
search and writing is a way for me to interpret that
Haitian Creole
•a mixture of French, Spanish, African, and English
called Creole, or "Kreyol”--Danticat was taught
French in school, but spoke Haitian Creole at home.
Creole was her first and primary language; English
is her third language.
•her writings as attempts to represent the cadence of
a recent speaker of English: getting to the point,
listing important events, incorporating less literary
Krik? Krak!
•a finalist for the National Book Award in 1995.
• Krik? Krak! represents the call and response of aftersupper storytelling: krik? is the call asking if anyone
has a story to tell, and krak! is the reply. --usually what
follows the formula are light stories, jokes, riddles
•using her autobiographical experiences in Haiti--"to
raise the voice of a lot of people that I knew growing
up, and this was, for the most part, . . . poor people
who had extraordinary dreams but also very amazing
•translated into Kreyol for Haitian radio broadcast.
“Children of the Sea”
•What is special about the narrative form?
•the two narrative voices--the man and the girl letters
that can never be sent
•Identify some of symbols, or possible symbols, of the
•Butterflies (5, 25, 28-29); children of the sea
•Who are the “children of the sea"?
•the comparison of the escape to Miami to the
experience of the middle passage--going to bathroom
on the boat (15); the young man has to throw his
notebook overboard (27-28)
“Children of the Sea” 2
•Who is identified by name in the story? Who is not,
and why?
•Madan Roger; Celianne; Lionel; Swiss; Justin Moise
Andre Nozius Joseph Frank Osnac Maxilmilen
•How do people react to tragedy, calamity, and
brutality in the story?
•powerless (17); escape; fight
•What do you think about the ending of the story?
What are the attitudes toward the future? Do they
have hope?