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Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel Series: Edwidge Danticat, March 25 | Arts & Culture

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Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel Series: Edwidge Danticat, March 25
Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Babel Series:  Edwidge Danticat, March 25


Buffalo, NY—Just Buffalo Literary Center’s BABEL series of internationally acclaimed authors continues with Edwidge Danticat on Friday, March 25th at 8:00 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall, 3 Symphony Circle, Buffalo. Tickets are $35 general admission, $100 VIP (includes reserved seating and pre-event reception with the author), with discounts available for Buffalo & Erie County Library and HSBC Bank card holders. Student tickets are only $10! Order online at www.justbuffalo.org, by calling (716) 832-5400, or purchase at the door. Tickets are also available for the final BABEL event of the season, Nigerian author Chris Abani on April 15.


Winner of a 2009 MacArthur Fellowship (biography courtesy of The MacArthur Foundation, www.macfound.org/fellows/2009/danticat), Edwidge Danticat is a novelist whose moving and insightful depictions of Haiti’s complex history are enriching our understanding of the Haitian immigrant experience. In works that chronicle the lives of ordinary Haitians, she evokes themes of family, isolation, and community that, while grounded in a specific cultural milieu, resonate with a wide range of audiences. With graceful, deceptively simple prose, she recounts the 1937 massacre of Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic in The Farming of Bones (1999); told through the eyes of a young domestic servant, the story of the atrocity becomes one of cultural and spiritual survival. In The Dewbreaker (2004), a series of seemingly disconnected stories are revealed to revolve around the same traumatic events. Danticat challenges readers of these stories to understand and forgive a perpetrator of horrific atrocities committed in a distant time and place, illustrating how events in Haiti continue to haunt the immigrants of the diaspora. Danticat’s memoir entitled Brother, I’m Dying (2007) pays tribute to her father and uncle through an unflinching account of the triumphs and tragedies they experienced in Haiti and the United States. In these and other works, she provides a nuanced portrait of the intersection between nation and diaspora, home and exile, and reminds us of the power of human resistance, renewal, and endurance against great obstacles.

Edwidge Danticat received a B.A. (1990) from Barnard College and an M.F.A. (1993) from Brown University. Her books include the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994); a collection of stories, Krik? Krak! (1995); a memoir, After the Dance: A Walk through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti (2002); and two novels for young adults, Behind the Mountain (2002) and Anacaona: Golden Flower, Haiti, 1490 (2005). Danticat has been a visiting professor of creative writing at New York University (1996-1997) and the University of Miami (2000 and 2008). Breath, Eyes, Memory is the BABEL selection for Danticat’s visit to Western New York.

The following review of the award-winning 1994 novel appeared in Publisher’s Weekly:  “A distinctive new voice with a sensitive insight into Haitian culture distinguishes this graceful debut novel about a young girl's coming of age under difficult circumstances. ‘I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place where you carry your past like the hair on your head,’ says narrator Sophie Caco, ruminating on the chains of duty and love that bind the courageous women in her family. The burden of being a woman in Haiti, where purity and chastity are a matter of family honor, and where ‘nightmares are passed on through generations like heirlooms,’ is Danticat's theme. Born after her mother Martine was raped, Sophie is raised by her Tante Atie in a small town in Haiti. At 12 she joins Martine in New York, while Atie returns to her native village to care for indomitable Grandmother Ife. Neither Sophie nor Martine can escape the weight of the past, resulting in a pattern of insomnia, bulimia, sexual trauma and mental anguish that afflicts both of them and leads inexorably to tragedy. Though her tale is permeated with a haunting sadness, Danticat also imbues it with color and magic, beautifully evoking the pace and character of Creole life, the feel of both village and farm communities, where the omnipresent Tontons Macoute mean daily terror, where voudon rituals and superstitions still dominate even as illiterate inhabitants utilize such 20th-century conveniences as cassettes to correspond with emigres in America. In simple, lyrical prose enriched by an elegiac tone and piquant observations, she makes Sophie's confusion and guilt, her difficult assimilation into American culture and her eventual emotional liberation palpably clear.”


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