Friday, September 2, 2016

Write the Story @ Ferguson Library: Pre-Class Post #4

Esteemed Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat is the recipient of the American Book Award, a MacArthur "genius" grant, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, among others. This week's reading is a story that appeared in The New Yorker in 2008.

"Ghosts" by Edwidge Danticat

This story is set in Haiti, and its characters come from varied backgrounds—inhabit different worlds, even, although they often share the same spaces: restaurant tables, offices, interrogation rooms.

The main character, Pascal, wants to cross some of the lines that divide the cultures. He imagines moving to Montreal with his brother; he wants to produce a radio show to allow gang members to tell their stories.

At the end of the story, he is confronted with the fact that his life is both inextricably bound up with, and vastly different from, that of the gang leader Tiye. It is in one sense a story about identity.

On the relationship between her own identity and her writing, Danticat has said:
I think it would be crazy for me to think of my work as singly representational, like I represent all of Haiti or every Haitian, but I have always been proud to be connected to Haiti, to have Haiti in my blood and to rep Haiti, as the kids say, whether I was a chef, and taxi driver, like my dad, a seamstress like my mom or anything else. One person can’t speak for ten million people. I can only write from my perspective. And I hope it hits home for some people. And I know that perspective might be outright rejected by other people. So I’m not forcefully trying to be representational. I think it would be arrogant to say I’m representing anyone but myself. I think artists need that freedom to tell their stories. Or you’ll be shackled by everyone.
           —Edwidge Danticat interviewed in Origins Journal, 5/19/2016

Exercise: How does your identity shape your writing? Take ten minutes to answer this question.

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