interview with edwidge danticat, author of ‘Untwine’

  • untwine.
    .
    • Age Range: 12 and up
    • Grade Level: 7 and up
    • Hardcover: 320 pages
    • Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 29, 2015)
    • Language: English
    • ISBN-10: 0545423031
    • ISBN-13: 978-054542303

    .

    .

     Edwidge Danticat’s latest novel Untwined explores the relationship between teenage twins Giselle and Isabelle Boyer, daughters of divorcing parents. When the family is involved in a tragic car accident, one of the twins is killed. At first, the family believes it’s Isabelle who has died – Isabelle the talented musician, whose recital the family was headed to at the time of the accident. Once Giselle is able to communicate, the family learns they had mixed up the two girls. Beset by terrible guilt, Giselle must face the fact of her survival, simultaneously coming to grips with the loss of the one person she was closest to in the world.
    .
    .
     I interviewed Edwidge Danticat shortly after the publication of her new book, written for a YA audience.
    .
    ,
    LG:    What triggered your interest in writing about twins? Do they share a universal bond unique to them, setting them apart from siblings who are not twins?
    .
    ED:   Twins have always intrigued me, particular twin mythology, from the Ancient Greeks to what twins mean in my home culture, Haitian culture. I had twin neighbors when I was growing up in Haiti and people were very careful not to upset them, because their very special bond was believed to be a kind of power. I always thought that was amazing. There are twins now in my family and in my close circle of friends and I see how their closeness is a gift to them, how having someone who is just like you and loves you and understands you super well is really amazing. From the outside it looks like they have an incredible bond, but maybe I’m over
    idealizing. I know there are also twins who are separated at birth and never meet and other twins who hate each other.
    .
    .
    LG:   Having two daughters of your own, did you draw from their lives in creating these characters?
    .
    ED:   My daughters are still rather young. They’re not even tweens yet, but I did borrow some moments from their childhood to use as parts of the twins’ lives and memories of when they were younger. I also drew from observing interactions between the twins in my life, whom I adore.
    .
    .
    LG:  Why did you aim Untwine at a YA audience?
    .
    ED:   I wrote it with young adults in mind because the characters are teenagers throughout the whole book. I supposed if the book extended to their lives, or one twin’s life, as a woman then I would have reconsidered. I do think though that this is a book adults can also read and enjoy.
    .
    .
    LG:  How is it different writing for a YA audience? Are there challenges specific to books geared toward them?
    .
    ED:   There was really no big difference for me between writing this book and writing my other books. When you write a first person narrator, you always have the challenge of trying to sound like that person, whether she is 16 or 86. In this case, what was most challenging for me was trying to sound like a sixteen-year-old young woman. But I have written about people in the first person before who are not like me. You just have to channel that person and find some way to get to know them inside out so that you can write in that voice.
    .
    .
    LG:   The absence of parents, or a united parental influence, is frequently employed in writing for this age group. Is the estrangement between the parents an intentional device following this common theme and how does it enhance the plot’s dynamic?
    .
    ED:   I really wasn’t thinking about it like that. What was most interesting to me was exploring the fact that the mother is someone who had children—twins on top of it—at a very young age and is now trying to figure out what to do with her life, as her children are getting older. I understand why in these types of books the writers might want to give the teens the full story and put the parents in the margins, but I really wanted to integrate the parents’ love as well as their issues and make them part of the story.
    .
    .
    LG:   Who are the most influential young adult writers today? Any you particularly admire?
    .
    ED:   There are so many wonderful ones. Jacqueline Woodson is a favorite. I went to Brown University with Jandy Nelson, who is amazing. She’s tackled twins in a powerful way in I’ll Give You The Sun. My oldest daughter is also madly in love with the books of Christopher Paul
    Curtis. But now a classic that I read when I was a kid and reread every now and then is Rosa Guy’s The Friends. It was the first young adult book I read that featured Caribbean characters.
    .
    .
    LG:   Are young people reading quality writing these days? Do you have any concerns the Internet, social media in particular, is or will supplant reading for this demographic?
    .
    ED:   There is so much quality writing specifically for young adults these days. And of course all the classics and other books young people might also read. There were probably always things to distract us from reading, if we don’t want to read. The young people in my life who are voracious readers seem to somehow manage to balance the internet and all of these other things out there and I don’t think they’re the only ones.
    .
    .
    LG:    You write from the perspective of Americans of Haitian descent, an ancestry you share. Do you believe a writer should “write what they know,” are more effective slanting their writing toward their own background?
    .
    ED:   I think people should write whatever they want. You don’t necessarily have to write what you know, as long as you put in the work and don’t just rehash stereotypes. Of course if you’re going to write beyond your regular field of knowledge or experience, you might have to do some research, which is also a great way of opening up your world and learning something
    new.
    .
    .
    LG:   What’s up next for you? Have you begun another book and will it be for an adult or young adult audience?
    .
    ED:   I am working on a nonfiction book about the art of writing about death and how some writers have done it. It will have some personal reflections as well. It’s not going to be labeled a young adult book, but I think everyone will be able to read it.
    .

    .

edwidgedanticat

Edwidge Danticat is a Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Among her numerous awards, she won the NBCC Award for her 2007 memoir Brother, I’m Dying.  Oprah’s Book Club chose to read her first novel Breath, Eyes, Memory in 1998 and she has been the recipient of a MacArthur Fellows Genius Grant.

Facebook

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

 

Advertisements

One thought on “interview with edwidge danticat, author of ‘Untwine’

  1. Pingback: Delving into a stack of diary-esque memoirs offers revealing insights | Monica Lee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s