Edwidge Danticat Sheds âLightâ on Haiti [INTERVIEW]<br />

Literary beacon Edwidge Danticat

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over the years wanted me to write a book about him, so we talked a lot about his life. I know they both got to thankfully see me become a writer, to see my books published.

Neither my father nor my uncle would be the type to say, “I am very proud of you, my daughter.” They were not demonstrative like that. One time I went to a bookstore where I was reading, the owner shocked me when she said, “You know your father is always coming in here. He buys a couple copies of your books once a week to give to people in the cab.” My father never told me that. She told me this right before reading, so I started crying. I know what I was doing meant something to them. And I know they were proud of me. That also makes a very big difference. When I was nominated for the National Book Award, my father was there at the ceremony.

EBONY: What do you remember most about leaving Haiti?

ED: I write about this in Brother, I’m Dying. The saddest departure was leaving my uncle. I used to go around with him talking to other people for him because he had had surgery on his throat and couldn’t speak. I had made a place for myself in this family, and I missed them very much. I had not spent that much time with my parents, so I did not know what it would be like.

But my first sight of New York was looking down on the plane and seeing all those lights. I just remember thinking, “Oh, my gosh. It’s so bright.” [Author] Junot Díaz says that being an immigrant and travelling from country to country, especially when you are a kid, is like space travel. You go into this big silver machine. You basically go from one world to another. And that’s how I felt. Like, “wow, this is different.”

I remember the drive from the airport. It was March, so it was cold. I remember going into the building where we were going to live and there were all these doors that were closed. I thought, “Oh, my God.”  It looked to me like a prison because I was so used to the openness of Haiti. Eventually I got used to it. I had two brothers that were born in the United States, so I was also getting used to my family, getting used to the school.

It was also the time in 1981 when people were not very nice to Haitians because there was a lot of talk about AIDS and Haitians. We were called Boat People, AIDS People. It was a really hard beginning, but I did a lot of reading. I think that was my escape. I loved to read. Reading was my salvation.

Natasha Labaze is an educator in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her parents moved from Haiti to the United States during the 1960s.