I was floored by this one. And it sent me over the moon. Simultaneously.
I first discovered Edwidge Danticat’s Krik? Krak! in an Afrocentric book store in Green Acres Mall near my hometown of Cambria Heights, Queens. It was 1998 and I had never heard of her nor her books. All I saw was a pretty black woman on the cover, leaning in, as if to whisper to her potential reader, “Krik!” This is how Haitian storytellers begin their tales. At that time, I had only been vaguely familiar with that term. My connection to Haitian storytelling has always been through my family’s heated discussions about Haitian politics and the usual “the-way-things-were-back-home” conversations that’s so prevalent in immigrant households. I think I read the whole book in two days. And I’m sure I held the it close to my heart seconds after reading the very last page. It had a profound impact on me as a Haitian immigrant. It unveiled so many secrets. I had already wanted to be a writer by then, but that book let me know that my Haitian immigrant stories truly mattered.
Weeks later, my mother was watching Oprah when she announced her book club selection. At that time, Oprah’s Book Club was ginormous. Everybody, I mean, everybody read whatever was on Oprah’s Book Club. I nearly lost my breath when she said Edwidge Danticat’s name. I had just read her book! But I had not heard of Breath, Eyes, Memory.
Of course, I wrote a detailed, heartfelt letter to Oprah as to why I should be featured on her televised book club discussion. I had to meet Edwidge Danticat!
I didn’t make it onto Oprah, but I did eventually meet Edwidge. And we’ve worked together on a couple of projects–Haiti Noir and One Moore Book’s Haiti Series. I am so incredibly grateful for her, and her many books. And I am truly humbled by her thoughts on my debut novel about a Haitian immigrant.
“A rough landing for a young Haitian girl is viscerally and powerfully portrayed in Ibi Zoboi’s impressive and remarkable first young adult novel. Reminiscent of S.E. Hinton’s classic, The Outsiders, American Street is about young people losing and finding their way, as well as a family coming apart then together again across the cultural, economic, social, and spiritual chasms that is at the core of many of today’s heartrending and harrowing immigration stories.”
-EDWIDGE DANTICAT, New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award Finalist