An Immigrant’s Story: Acclaimed Author Edwidge Danticat Wins $100,000 Prize for Her ‘Genre-Spanning Work’

Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat
Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat
Photo: Wilfredo Lee (AP Photo)
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Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat (Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones; Brother, I’m Dying, etc.) has long been considered one of the most gifted voices in the diaspora, garnering a National Book Critics Circle Award, an American Book Award, and a MacArthur Genius grant, among her many honors. This week, the writer and activist can add one more accolade to her resumé: Danticat has been awarded the 2020 Vilcek Foundation Prize in Literature, an honor that includes a $100,000 cash award and a ceremony for honorees in New York City.

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As LitHub reports:

The 2020 Vilcek Prize in Literature is awarded to Edwidge Danticat “for dazzling prose and profound understanding of our shared human condition embodied through her genre-spanning work that explores the Haitian diaspora and other personal narratives.”

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For those unfamiliar, the Vilcek Foundation’s mission (as stated on their website) is “[r]aising awareness of immigrant contributions and fostering appreciation of the arts and sciences.” Awarded annually, the Vilcek Foundation Prizes are given to immigrants “who have significantly impacted American culture and society,” and span accomplishments in the biomedical sciences, literature, and “excellence in the administration of justice.” In an era and federal administration where black and brown immigrants are more maligned and persecuted than in recent memory, Danticat’s particular focus on “[h]ow families are made and unmade by immigration,” is more relevant than ever.

As Danticat told the Vilcek Foundation:

“The power of literature is that it allows us to step into someone else’s skin. If you allow yourself that privilege, to imagine their experience as your own, I think you can experience the full extent of your humanity.”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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This carries more weight following the Cummins scandal. I’m glad to see it.