Written by Nicole Cappabianca
On November 9, Edwidge Danticat was announced as the 2018 winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Within the literary community, the Neustadt Prize is called the “American Nobel” because of its reputation of influencing the Swedish Academy’s annual selection. Any living writer from any part of the world is eligible for the Neustadt Prize. The award is the first of its kind to originate from the United States due to its large scope, and it’s one of the very few international prizes that is open to poets, novelists, and playwrights. The winners are awarded $50,000, a silver replica of an eagle’s feather, and a certificate.
Danticat is a Haitian-American writer and has written short stories, essays, travel commentaries, film scripts, YA novels, as well as four fiction novels. Winning awards for her work isn’t new to her, either. In addition to being the 25th laureate of this award, Danticat already has a Pushcart Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award, a BOCAS Prize, an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a MacArthur Fellowship, and she holds two honorary degrees. And as if all that wasn’t impressive enough, her debut novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, was an official selection for Oprah’s Book Club (the Queen of Black Girl Magic, herself).
In her work, Danticat commonly refers to Haiti and the Caribbean, incorporating their literary history. Check out her latest nonfiction novel, called The Art of Death, Writing the Final Story, which was inspired by Danticat losing her mother to cancer. In her book, Danticat processes her reaction to death and compares it to the way other writers address death in their own work.
Edwidge Danticat is a beautiful example of Black Girl Magic and should inspire us all to keep writing and thriving!