Speaker Preview: Edwidge Danticat

The name Edwidge Danticat should ring a bell for members of the class of 2013 and 2014. Danticat wrote The Dew Breaker, the very first book they read as Phillips Academy students as required summer reading for English 100.

Edwidge Danticat, a prominent fiction and nonfiction writer, immigrated to the United States from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, at the age of twelve. Her acclaimed works include Krik? Krak!, Brother, I’m Dying and Breath, Eyes, Memory.

In addition to writing, Danticat currently serves as an activist for Haiti and advocates political and social issues in her country.

On Friday April 29, Danticat will visit Phillips Academy and spend the day on campus.

During fifth period on Friday, CAMD and members of CAFE will host a lunch in the Underwood Room in which students and faculty members will discuss Haitian cultural and social issues with Ms. Danticat.

Following the lunch, Danticat will host a master class with Phillips Academy’s Writer in Residence, Lewis Robinson. Students from Robinson’s prose class, as well as students and teachers from other classes will attend to discuss Danticat’s literature.

At 7:30, the main event will open to the public, “An Evening With Edwidge Danticat” in the Cochran Chapel.

Danticat will give a reading, discuss her literature and Haiti and host a Question and Answer session. Though this is a free public event, people will be encouraged to donate to “Li! Li! Li!” a storytelling program for children affected by the earthquake and to Dr. Paul Farmer’s “Partners in Health.”

The event was made possible by two faculty members, Stephanie Curci and Kevin O’Connor, both instructors In English.

Curci, who grew up spending part of every year in Haiti, has been fascinated by Haitian history. She has taught Danticat’s work for ten years and has been trying to bring Danticat to Phillips Academy.

“I’m really interested in meeting her because in addition to being a writer, she’s also an activist on a number of issues and her writing has recently been about things bigger than literature,” said Curci.

Curci believes that bringing Danticat to campus is one of the many amazing opportunities presented to the students at Andover and that “the real focus is to give our students the unique opportunity to interact with an amazing author, meet with them in small groups, and also hear a reading.”

Curci discussed how the public becomes interested in matters in places like Haiti immediately after something major like an earthquake happens, but only remains interested until the next big crisis comes along elsewhere.

She hopes that this event will allow more people to continue to engage in exploring the issues and culture of Haiti.

Curci applied for an Abbot Association Grant to bring Danticat to Phillips Academy last year, and the proposal was granted.

O’Connor has been a part of Phillips Academy’s speaker committee for years and thought that bringing Danticat was a great idea.

“[Danticat] is much sought after as a speaker and we really had to work hard to get her to come here, so we’re fortunate,” said O’Connor.

Both teachers really hope that the event will have a large turnout of members from both the Andover community and other communities.

Curci has spread the word to the Haitian community in Lawrence and Boston, along with a charter school in Cambridge with a large Haitian population. She intends for this to be “one of those moments when we hope PA can be a private school with a public focus.”

In addition to giving the public the opportunity to meet this distinguished author, the teachers wish to raise money and benefit the two charity foundations.

“Beyond being a worthy event, it’s just a great opportunity to hear a fine writer,” said O’Connor. “This event is one of the things that make the school special.”