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January 13th, 2010
02:36 PM ET

Haiti's people have strong will to rebuild

Edwidge Danticat
Special to CNN

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/13/haiti.rubble.jpg width=300 height=169]

The earthquake that shook Haiti on Tuesday was only the most recent disaster to lay siege to the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere, a country that was beginning to show some signs of rebirth, says Haitian-born American novelist Edwidge Danticat.

"There was a sense after the four storms last year that there were some positive things happening," she said, with new hotels going up and fresh hope for foreign investment, against a long historical backdrop of poverty, natural disaster and political instability.

The magnitude-7.0 quake, she said, "just grinds everything back into the ground."

Even so, Danticat sees hope in a resilient population and an international community that she believes will come to its aid.

"It looks extremely bad right now," she said, "but Haitians will rebuild."

Danticat has been writing about Haiti since she was a girl.

When she was 12, she left Haiti and moved with her brother to Brooklyn, New York, to join her parents, who'd emigrated a decade earlier. Her first works in English were published in a New York city magazine for teens when she was a teenager. The books she has written since have leaned into the history and issues of Haiti, the Haitian diaspora and the immigrant experience. She is an advocate for her country of origin.

Danticat is the author of several books, including "Breath, Eyes, Memory," an Oprah's Book Club selection; the National Book Award finalist "Krik? Krak!"; and "The Farming of Bones," an American Book Award winner. "Brother, I'm Dying," a memoir, was a 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography. She is a 2009 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant.

Danticat spoke with CNN.com Wednesday.

CNN: What does the earthquake mean for Haiti?

Edwidge Danticat: It is a catastrophe beyond measure, because even when we've had mudslides or floods, it has overwhelmed the capacity of the country to handle it: to absorb the wounded, to help people find medical care. But this situation is something far beyond anything the country has ever experienced before.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Haiti Earthquake
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Tim Gibson

    Strenth comes from disorder and chaos. The will to survive cannot be brought down by an earthquake, mudslide or hurricane. May God go with the aide of this nation.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  2. mike

    it's very frustrating as a Haitian American to see about people going to other Caribbean islands for vacation and yet Haiti has the potential to be a nice tourist place but instead the govt just retains all of the millions of dollars to keep for themselves. There's no middle class, no jobs, no infrastructure. They need transparency in the govt when they start to rebuild.

    January 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  3. musing gal

    I hope the people recover from this soon.

    January 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
  4. Isabel Siaba (Brazil)

    Since Tuesday, the Haiti has one more tragedy of its history. In the midst of so much pain, death and grief, it is nice to see the worldwide mobilization offering help to rebuild a country that had serious problems with so many people with disabilities basic and that already depended on the countries members of the Mission of Peace

    January 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm |