Haitian-American novelist shares her personal story
Haitian-American novelist Edwidge Danticat addressed upper school students on Feb. 7 in honor of Black History Month by doing what she does best: She told stories. She described her journey from Port-au-Prince to New York City as a youth, explaining how her childhood memories, experience as an immigrant and connection to previous generations inspired and shaped her writing.
As an undergraduate at Barnard College, she began writing her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory. By the time she received her MFA in creative writing from Brown University, she had finished it. It was the first of many critically acclaimed works; she has been a National Book Award finalist three times and received a McArthur “Genius Grant” in 2009.
“Sharing our stories is one of the ways that we break barriers,” she told upper school students at the Lewis Family Auditorium. “You also have to be open to listening to other people’s stories.”
Danticat was raised by her aunt and uncle after her parents fled Haiti when she was four years old to escape the Duvalier regime; they were reunited when she flew to New York by herself eight years later, meeting her three brothers for the first time. An article she wrote at age 14 about that trip was published in a New York City youth publication. For Danticat, writing has always been what she described as “kind of an excavation.”
“With everything I write, I feel like I’m kind of a fuller version of myself,” Danticat said. “I feel I grow as a human being.”
Danticat took the stage after a presentation about Black History Month from Black Students Association officers Leah Croom ’25, Tyira Jackson ’24 and Elicia Lee ’25. She was welcomed by BSA advisor Teagan Thompson and English teacher Ariel Mandel, and thanked by Interim Head of School Rachel Rodriguez.
“We cannot understate what an honor it is to host Ms. Danticat today,” Mandel said. “The impact of her work has been recognized at the highest levels.”
Said Thompson: “Thank you so much for sharing your story and wisdom with us today; we are honored and humbled.”
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.