On Voice

Edwidge Danticat talks to Sarah T. Williams about the influence of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God on her adolescent self and on her writing life.

While Danticat navigated family, culture, language and the streets of Brooklyn, Hurston’s book appeared as a bridge between time and place. Because Hurston had spent many years in Haiti researching folklore and culture, “I felt she knew something about me,” said Danticat, “something about the soul of Haiti.” (…)

The novel gave Danticat permission to use her own storytelling voice. “Some things were for the kitchen,” she said, “and some things for the books. The way we spoke to our grandmother was not the way we wrote. Reading [Hurston] allowed me to use the voice in my head, the voice with which I spoke.”

Danticat has written the introduction to one of the book’s editions.