We have long been admirers of award-winning author, Ms. Edwidge Danticat, who emigrated from Haiti when she was twelve-years-old. On the occasion of Women’s History Month (March) and International Women’s Day (March 8) we bring you a new interview with the author, book reviews and lesson plans that highlight Ms. Danticat’s life and literature.
Throughout her prolific career, she has offered moving and engaging portrayals of the immigrant experience often with highly memorably female characters. Ms. Danticat published two books last year: Untwine, a young adult novel of identity, loss, and grief where Haitian-American twin girls are irrevocably separated (in our review, we suggest it’s fitting for readers of all ages) and a brave children’s book, Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, where a young girl must learn new ways to communicate with her mother while she is detained in an immigrant detention center. Please click here for a review by The New York Times.
Recently, we interviewed Ms. Danticat and asked her to revisit one of our favorite novels, Behind the Mountains, published by Scholastic in 2002. In Behind the Mountains, Celiane Esperance, a young girl living in Haiti is forced to flee political violence to the U.S. with her mother and brother and reunite with her father in Brooklyn, NY. Along the journey, Celiane captures her thoughts and feelings in a journal she affectionately names her “sweet little book.”
We asked Ms. Danticat about her personal immigration story, changes she’s observed in immigration since 2002, what Celiane might be doing now, and what advice she has for young writers. The video interview encourages youth voice in writing and underscores the challenges facing immigrants today.
Please click here to watch our interview.
This video resource is replete with images of Haitian and Haitian-American art. It is a terrific companion to our comprehensive unit plan on Behind the Mountains designed for high school students. The plan includes activities for students to: keep a dialectical journal while reading, decipher the meaning of figurative language in Haitian proverbs and art, apply the “push-pull” factors of immigration, understand how a “duality of cultures” and “stages of adaptation” function in the lives of immigrants, as well as write an argumentative essay.
Please click here to read our Behind the Mountains Unit Plan.
Ms. Danticat also volunteers her time to judge our Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest where students write on the theme “Why I’m Glad America is a Nation of Immigrants.” To learn more about the contest, please click here.
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