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Edwidge Danticat

The Dew Breaker

Alfred A. Knopf

2005 Fiction

The Dew Breaker
In her third novel, The Dew Breaker, the prolific Edwidge Danticat spins a series of related stories around a shadowy central figure, a Haitian immigrant to the U.S. who reveals to his artist daughter that he is not, as she believes, a prison escapee, but a former prison guard, skilled in torture and the other violent control methods of a brutal regime. “Your father was the hunter,” he confesses, “he was not the prey.”

Into this brilliant opening, Danticat tucks the seeds of all that follows: the tales of the prison guard’s victims, of their families, of those who recognize him decades later on the streets of New York, of those who never see him again, but are so haunted that they believe he’s still pursuing them. (A “dew breaker,” we learn, is a government functionary who comes in the early morning to arrest someone or to burn a house down, breaking the dew on the grass that he crosses.) Although it is frustrating, sometimes, to let go of one narrative thread to follow another, The Dew Breaker is a beautifully constructed novel that spirals back to the reformed prison guard at the end, while holding unanswered the question of redemption.

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and came to the United States when she was 12. She is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures. Danticat received a degree in French Literature from Barnard College and an MFA from Brown University.

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Blog Posts about Edwidge Danticat

REVIEW: "The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race"

There are 108 tally marks on the cover of The Fire This Time, the new essay collection that brings forth 18 perspectives from a new generation of writers, working in the tradition of James Baldwin. Each mark represents a black life lost too soon, a visual representation of the urgency of #BlackLivesMatter. In the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in 2013, Jesmyn Ward went to Twitter to share her frustration, but found the platform too ephemeral. She was much more struck by the pertinence of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Ward... Read More →

The Artist As Activist: Author Edwidge Danticat In Cleveland

Edwidge Danticat began her remarks in Cleveland by drawing attention to another artist, the painter Jacob Lawrence, whose migration series was on display last year at the Museum of Modern Art. Danticat, who has family in Brooklyn, New York, said she often walked the long rectangular room, soaking in the art as a way to reflect on the massacre at Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charlotte, South Carolina. “What kept me glued to these dark silhouettes is how beautifully and heartbreakingly Lawrence captured black bodies in motion, in transit, in... Read More →

Poet Richard Blanco And Activist Ruth Behar Work To Lift Cuba’s “Emotional Embargo”

Writer Ruth Behar and poet Richard Blanco have launched Bridges to/from Cuba, an ambitious collaborative fueled by 20 years of friendship. The duo has started an online forum for poets, authors and scholars to "lay bare the laughter and sorrow of being Cuban." As geopolitics shift, these two Cuban Americans call out for literature, writing, “For it is not simply a political and economic embargo that needs to be 'lifted,' but also the weight of an emotional embargo that has kept Cubans collectively holding their breath for over fifty... Read More →

Jesmyn Ward Stresses Importance Of Telling Stories That Matter During Recent Visit To Cleveland

On a freezing, overcast March day, the writer Jesmyn Ward made her first foray to Cleveland.  She barely smiled as she stood behind a lectern in brown leather boots, red corduroy pants and a gray sweater set. Yet several in her audience at Cleveland Public Library murmured that the piercing, prepared remarks Ward read should be published immediately. Others were visibly moved and brimming with questions. Ward, 36, who won a National Book Award for her second novel, “Salvage the Bones,” spent the morning with Cleveland students from... Read More →

Debating The Best Book Lists: Does Amazon's "100 Books To Read In A Lifetime" Get It Right?

Wither the best book list? Inherently inane and crazy-making, these are also undeniably good conversation starters. Amazon has posted the latest iteration: its best “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime.” It includes two Anisfield-Wolf prize novels: Junot Diaz' “The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” and Toni Morrison’s “Beloved," as well as James McBride’s memoir “The Color of Water.” Also on the list is the immortal “Invisible Man” from Ralph Ellison, which won an Anisfield-Wolf Landmark Achievement, and books by... Read More →

Edwidge Danticat Lends Her Pen To The Film, "Girl Rising"

It's something that most of us in America take for granted—the right to an education.  We don't think about what it must feel like to be denied one of the most basic rights, until events like the attempted assassination attempt of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai at the hands of the Taliban puncture our collective consciousness. She was a vocal advocate for education for girls in Pakistan, who had dreams of becoming a doctor. While Malala will make a full recovery and return to her advocacy work, she is not alone in her fight for access to... Read More →

VIDEO: Edwidge Danticat On Why Americans Don't Know Haiti Beyond The Catastrophes

Watch Edwidge Danticat on the Struggle of Haitian Immigrants on PBS. See more from Need To Know. When we see Haiti in the news, it is often downtrodden and negative. Edwidge Danticant, our 2005 winner for fiction, tries to bring a different light to Haiti through her work. In a 2011 interview on PBS, shortly after the Haiti earthquake of 2010, Danticat talks about the side of Haiti we rarely get to see. "The beauty surprises people sometimes. The physical beauty of certain parts of Haiti, the beauty of the arts - the music, the paintings... Read More →

In A Disaster, Do People Need Books As Much As They Need Other Supplies?

Several Nobel laureates, Libraries Without Borders and dozens of authors believe so. They are petitioning for books to be considered crucial in disaster relief. Among those who have signed the petition are Anisfield-Wolf winners Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Joyce Carol Oates and Edwidge Danticat. Patrick Weil, chairman of Libraries Without Borders, says they are urging the UN to consider "nourishment of the mind" a fundamental resource in disaster relief. This first came about after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when the organization was... Read More →

VIDEO: Edwidge Danticat Explains What It Means To Be An Immigrant Artist

"There's no one writing in the English language today who more precisely and passionately articulates the exile's experience than Edwidge Danticat." And so begins Henry Louis Gates' introduction of our 2005 winner. In this 2012 video, Danticat discusses her work and exile, what it means to be an immigrant artist, and responsibility to one's home country. This event was co-presented by Cambridge Forum, Harvard Bookstore, and Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. Read More →

VIDEO: Edwidge Danticat On Whether Art Is A Luxury Or Necessity

2005 Anisfield-Wolf winner Edwidge Danticat visited the Tavis Smiley show on PBS to discuss her latest work, Create Dangerously. She discusses the origins of the book's title, the difference between immigrant artists and American-born artists, and whether art should be considered a luxury or necessity. Read More →

What Are Your Top Ten Favorite Books - Of All Time?

Edwidge Danticat The website and corresponding book, "The Top Ten," tackles that very question, asking celebrated writers to list their favorite 10 books. It's so simple yet incredibly fascinating to see which authors select which books and what genres they love. A few of our own Anisfield-Wolf authors have been featured on the site—Joyce Carol Oates and Edwidge Danticat. Check out their picks below:  Top Ten List for Edwidge Danticat Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston  The Stranger by Albert Camus  Germinal by Emile... Read More →

VIDEO: Edwidge Danticat Honored With Langston Hughes Medal At City College Of New York

2005 Anisfield-Wolf Award winner Edwidge Danticat gets emotional after receiving the Langston Hughes medal at the 2011 Langston Hughes Festival, celebrating writers from the African diaspora. Past winners of the Langston Hughes medal include Paule Marshall, Toni Morrison, Ralph W. Ellison, August Wilson, and Derek Walcott—all Anisfield-Wolf Award winners as well! As Danticat said during her emotional acceptance speech, "My life, for reasons that only the universe fully understands has been one in which I always feel I am walking in the... Read More →
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