Chatting One Book: The Art of Danticat’s Writing

By Michelle S. RSS Thu, January 19, 2012

Over the past several weeks, I have focused mainly on the themes, ideas, and questions brought up by Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously. However, I couldn’t conclude this blog series without discussing her writing style and the art with which she crafts sentences, paragraphs, and essays.

One of the things that immediately struck me about Danticat’s writing was her simple, yet rich and evocative descriptions of landscapes, people, and moments. From the “lime-colored” mountains to the “crystal clear stream, which was stinging cold in the morning and lukewarm in late afternoon,” Danticat is able to paint poignant images with very few words. I think my favorite comes on page 118 in chapter nine, “Flying Home:”

My favorite flights depart in the late afternoon or early in the evening. When on those flights, I always imagine what the plane must look like to a very small child from the ground, a silvered speck racing across a flaming orange sky, nurturing the child’s own dreams of escape…

Danticat also describes her internal struggles with similar exactitude, every word carefully chosen and none gone to waste. I think this passage on page 65 is a great example:

Forgetting is a constant fear in any writer’s life. For the immigrant writer, far from home, memory becomes an even deeper abyss. It is as if we had been forced to step under the notorious forgetting trees, the sabliyes, that our slave ancestors were told would remove their past from their heads and dull their desire to return home. We know we must pass under the tree, but we hold our breath and cross our fingers and toes and hope that the forgetting will not penetrate too deeply into our brains.

As someone prone to using three adjectives when one (or none) will do, I greatly admire her linguistic precision. What do you enjoy about Danticat’s writing style? Share your thoughts in the comments!

And—we’re excited to be gearing up for the kick-off of One Book, One Philadelphia’s 10th anniversary season at Parkway Central Library on January 25! Stay tuned to the blog for more information about our eight inspiring weeks of discussions, performances, and more!

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It is as Derek Walcott once said, the writer must be exact and precise with every word chosen, just as the water color painter must always use clean brushes and constantly use fresh water to keep the colors fresh, clear, and bright. It is a slow and unforgiving process, but the outcome is art and beauty.
jeff - NW Philly
Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wow! Nice Post. Better not say that. It pleases. This is a very powerful post, masterfully done. Sorry my bad English. With respect xxdevil.
xxdevil - Ukrain
Sunday, March 25, 2012