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Annual Neustadt Lit Festival to feature prize winner Edwidge Danticat at OU

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The annual Neustadt Lit Festival will begin on Oct. 9. The festival will hold events throughout the OU campus through Oct. 11.

The annual Neustadt Lit Festival will celebrate the work of an internationally renowned author on the OU campus, allowing attendees to recognize the impact of literature from around the world, beginning Oct. 9.  

The Neustadt Lit Festival is an annual literary event sponsored by World Literature Today. The festival is centered on the work of the current winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature. This award is recognized as one of the most prestigious awards for literature. Several Neustadt winners go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, according to the Neustadt website.   

This year’s festival honors Edwidge Danticat, a Haitian-American author. Danticat is a distinguished author and has won several literary awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. She writes a variety of literature including fiction novels, short stories, essays and children’s books.   

Danticat was selected by a group of Neustadt jurors that is comprised of writers from across the globe. According to the Neustadt website, Danticat was chosen because of how she addresses themes of migration and cultural adaptation.

Daniel Simon, editor-in-chief of World Literature Today, said Danticat’s work showcases different societal tensions.  

“She’s writing about very contemporary, serious issues in terms of migration and immigration to the U.S. and issues of race and class and culture,” Simon said. “I think her work is very powerful and accessible to the average reader.”

The festival begins Oct. 9 with an opening reception in the Sandy Bell Gallery at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. The event runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and includes a book signing by Danticat and other visiting authors.  

The festival will include panels on the themes and issues presented in Danticat’s work and a discussion with Danticat about the concept of mortality in her essays on Oct. 10.

The OU School of Dance will perform a new piece choreographed by Marie Casimir, OU African and African American studies professor, titled “Women Like Us.”

There will also be a performance by the Rara Tou Limen, a visiting Haitian dance troupe, titled “ReBIRTH.” Both performances will take place from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m., Oct. 11 at Sharp Hall in Catlett Music Center.   

The festival will provide attendees the opportunity to discuss different aspects of writing and take a closer look into the themes in Danticat’s work, Simon said.

“There will be other opportunities to talk about the craft of fiction and what it means to be an immigrant writer in the U.S. and to write in more than one language,” Simon said.  

Simon said he is looking forward to the dance performance. He said Rara Tou Limen personifies many of the aspects of Haitian culture in their movements.

“It really brings to life many of the themes that are present in Danticat’s work,” Simon said. “So, you have the words on the page, but then there will be this opportunity to see so much of the culture brought to life on the stage.”  

A complete schedule of the events of the Neustadt Festival can be found on World Literature Today’s website. All events are free and open to the public.

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