Darcel Rockett (Chicago Tribune) speaks to Haitian-American author and immigrant rights advocate Edwidge Danticat on her recent visit to Chicago to speak at Columbia College. Here are excerpts of the article and interview:
[. . .] Danticat would find her success in words with books like: “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” “Krik? Krak!” “The Farming of Bones” and most recently, “The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story.” It was her book “Brother, I’m Dying” that brought her to Chicago recently. The Columbia College Chicago Library selected the 2007 book as a featured read, also part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read program. Danticat spoke of her work on the immigration experience from Haiti to America to an audience at Columbia College last week. During the event, Danticat explored the meaning of the “American Dream” during the Trump presidency and recalled that her father, who drove a taxi, bought her books and gave them away to special passengers.
[. . .] We talked with Danticat about the immigrant experience in today’s political climate. The interview has been condensed and edited.
Q: You’ve written books that show the beauty of life; where do you begin to look for beauty in death?
A: The latest book is called “The Art of Death,” and the NEA book is called “Brother, I’m Dying.” One is about my father and my uncle — who were the men in my life. And “The Art of Death” is about my mother, who dies in 2014, so it sort of closes a circle for me. You’re definitely transformed by losing your parents. So writing that book gives me a chance to reflect on all of that, but also to look back on the journey that my parents have taken as immigrants — examining my parents’ lives all the way to their deaths and how they really tried. They came to this country to try to give more opportunities to my brothers and myself, and they are the ones who taught me how to find joy in difficult circumstances. And even in this idea of continuity that they try to bring to their lives, but also the parts of them that they left in me, in their passing.
[. . .] Q: Is it harder to be an immigrant now than in the past?
A: I think it’s harder to be an immigrant these days. There’s so much anti-immigration rhetoric — from the president calling Haiti and other countries s—hole countries. You have that rhetoric, but you also have actual policies: temporary protected status being revoked (and) now being kept alive with court cases; with DACA, so you have all these young people, like myself, who came over when they were young, who don’t know any other country but are now in limbo. I think it’s a sensitive time to be an immigrant in this country, because people feel very exposed by all the rhetoric and all the scapegoating of immigrants. [. . .]
[Edwidge Danticat by Ernesto Ruscio / Getty.]
For full interview, see https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/books/ct-books-edwidge-danticat-20190430-story.html