Award-winning author Edwidge Danticat spoke Nov. 6 at the annual Fort Collins Reads event, and answered audience members’ questions after her talk.
See Part 1 focusing on why she wrote the memoir Brother I’m Dying and how it has influenced immigration issues.
On the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction
Fiction is more [about] creating a world of your own making. It takes longer. Nonfiction is mostly about structuring the material. My editor told me to use techniques from fiction.
On writing well
I had a very formal education. The education system in Haiti is rigorous. I loved to read. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou was the first book I read here; I read it with a dictionary. I work very hard at [writing]. I work quite a lot.
I read for a window to escape, and a mirror…that was my safe space.
Why didn’t your mother appear in Brother, I’m Dying?
My mother, when I was writing the book, said “Keep me out of it.”
Have you found closure? [regarding the issues raised in Brother, I’m Dying]
Closure is overrated. [She smiled, and the audience laughed.]
What advice can you give aspiring novelists?
The more details, the more convincing you can make fiction.
What advice did your family give you when you came to the U.S. [at age 12]?
My uncle kept telling me, “Don’t do drugs.” When I got there, to Flatbush Avenue, there was a drug store on every corner. I was so confused.
How is your daughter Mira?
Mira is 11 years old. She has braces and is now going through the hell that is middle school. She’s the girl on the cover of Claire of the Sea Light. She asked, “Am I famous? Because if I’m famous, I can hang out with Lebron James.”
How can we help improve immigration?
(1) Be informed, is one way. We can’t say, “we don’t know.” (2) Volunteering with children of immigrants. (3) Make your wishes known through Congress. (4) You get a big chance on Tuesday [to vote in the presidential election].
Katherine Valdez marked her calendar for Nov. 5, 2017, when Fort Collins Reads hosts celebrated author and independent bookstore owner Ann Patchett, who will discuss her novel Commonwealth.
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