Novelist Danticat Worried About Family In Haiti

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Novelist Edwidge Danticat, who was born in Haiti and lived there until she was 12, still has family in the country. She has written several works about the nation, and was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant in September. Danticat tells Deborah Amos she's worried about her family considering the magnitude of Tuesday's quake.


Novelist Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti. She lived there until she was 12 and still has family in the country. She has written several books about the land of her birth and was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant last September. She joins us by phone from Miami where she now lives. Good morning.


AMOS: Have you been able to get in touch with any of your relatives there?

DANTICAT: I was able last night to speak to my mother-in-law, who lives outside of Port-au-Prince. They are not getting much news there, but even as we were speaking to her, she was saying the ground is shaking, the ground is shaking. So she was still feeling some of the aftershocks way outside of Port- au-Prince in the south, in a place called Gromale(ph). But I've not been able to speak to any of my family members who live in the capital itself.

AMOS: Have you had word from them though?

DANTICAT: No, no word. We have a group of family members who are in Carrefour, which it seems was especially affected, and some others who live closer to the national palace in...

AMOS: Which was damaged seriously.

DANTICAT: Yes, it - we're rather fearful of what it means for a smaller building if the national palace was damaged to that degree.

AMOS: Have you heard anything about relief efforts getting into the country yet?

DANTICAT: Well, there are some efforts here. People are starting to meet in the community here in Miami - you know, Haitian Americans and others, but nothing, you know, has come through except more sort of different layers of bad news so far. I mean, we fearfully are waiting for the sun to rise to see what emerges, and I'm terrified that it promises to be very, very grim indeed.

AMOS: You spent much of your childhood in Haiti's capital. Tell us a little about the last time you were there.

DANTICAT: Well, the last time I was there - I was in (unintelligible) for Easter last year, and I was in a city outside of Port-au-Prince called Jacmel. And people are very concerned about Jacmel. So little news are piercing through in a place like Jacmel, which is in the mountains outside. We have not heard much come out of there. My fear in the situation is that, you know, whatever number we will hear, it will be so much worse than that, because there were so many places where people were living on the hillside and sometimes you have a slight mudslide and it's catastrophic. Imagine the scale of this. It's just the apocalypse for this very small and often tried(ph) country.

AMOS: And the tragedy is they missed the big hurricane this year and the earthquake came.

DANTICAT: Yeah, the last year we had four hurricanes in a row, and one cannot stress enough how much aid from individuals but also from all of Haiti's neighbors this will take to help save lives in the first instance, but also in the long run. There's just not enough hospitals or medical staff in Haiti to deal with something of this magnitude.

AMOS: Indeed. And thank you very much for joining us this morning.

DANTICAT: Thank you so much for having me.

AMOS: Edwidge Danticat has written several books about her native Haiti.

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