Edwidge Danticat’s Literary Beginnings at Youth Communication


Acclaimed writer and MacArthur Fellowship winner, Edwidge Danticat began her writing career at Youth Communication in 1984 as a 14-year-old writer for New Youth Connections. In 1987 she wrote a powerful account of her immigration experience from Haiti, “A New World Full of Strangers.” Much later, she wrote an introduction to Starting with I, an anthology of personal essays by teens. In this introduction she credits Youth Communication for providing the space from which she would embark on her writing career: “When I was done with the [immigration] piece, I felt that my story was unfinished, so I wrote a short story, which later became a book, my first novel: Breath, Eyes, Memory. . . Writing for New Youth Connections had given me a voice. My silence was destroyed completely, indefinitely.” Danticat’s immigration story will appear in American Me, a new Youth Communication anthology scheduled for publication in January 2010.

Danticat has written several young adult novels, and sees a direct connection between writing for young people and her experience at Youth Communication. “When I was writing Behind the Mountains [a young adult novel], I couldn’t stop thinking about New Youth Connections. I almost saw the main character in that book writing for the magazine in the future.” Danticat and five other Youth Communication alumni went on to become professional authors. They talk about the connection between writing at Youth Communication and writing as adults in Al Desetta’s “Lighting the Lamp for Young Readers and Writers” in VOYA (April 2009 ) a trade magazine for young adult librarians (see http://www.youthcomm.org/PDF/VOYA_Desetta_YC_Writers_2009.pdf).

Youth Communication was founded in 1980 to train teens in writing and other skills needed for success in school, on the job, and in civic life. Its founder and Executive Director Keith Hefner also won the MacArthur Fellowship 20 years ago.

For more information about Youth Communication programs, see www.youthcomm.org

For full article, see http://www.youthcomm.org/news/Edwidge_Danticat_MacArthur_2009.html

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