Edwidge Danticat: The Immigrant Artist at Work

WED, NOV 17, 2010 (53:48)

Award-winning Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat discusses her reflection on art and exile, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. Danticat is introduced by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

What does it mean to be an immigrant artist, especially in relation to one’s country of origin? When that country is suffering–-from violence, poverty, oppression, or disaster–-how does the artists’ responsibility change?

+ BIO: Edwidge Danticat

Danticat is the first Haitian woman to compose a novel entirely in English, and she is also the first author to bring the Haitian/American experience to American literature. Edwidge Danticat is an award-winning Haitian-born writer who now lives in Miami. In Brother, I'm Dying, she told the devastating story of her 81-year-old uncle, Reverend Joseph Dantica's death in the custody of immigration officials. He had arrived from Haiti seeking political asyslum following threats on his life. Denied his medicines and accused of faking an illness, he died just days after his detention. Her latest book, Create Dangerously, reflects on her responsibility as an immigrant artist in the United States toward her native country, especially at this time when impoverished Haiti is suffering the devastation of earthquake and disease.

+ BIO: Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr., is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American Studies and Africana Studies, and of The Root, an online news magazine dedicated to coverage of African American news, culture, and genealogy.

He is the co-author, with Cornel West, of The Future of the Race (1996), and the author of a memoir, Colored People (1994), that traces his childhood experiences in a small West Virginia town in the 1950s and 1960s. Among his other books are The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers (2003); Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Black Man (1997); and Loose Canons: Notes on the Culture Wars (1992). He is completing a book on race and writing in the eighteenth century, entitled Black Letters and the Enlightenment.

Professor Gates earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from Clare College at the University of Cambridge, and his B.A. summa cum laude in History from Yale University, where he was a Scholar of the House, in 1973. Before joining the faculty of Harvard in 1991, he taught at Yale, Cornell, and Duke. In his career he has received nearly 50 honorary degrees, from institutions including the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, New York University, University of Massachusetts-Boston, Williams College, Emory University, Howard University, University of Toronto, and the University of Benin.

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