Skype Brings Award Winning Author to BSU
By Kristina Rowley
From her living room, award-winning author, Edwige Danticat, invited Dr. Renee Shea's Contemporary Literature class as houseguests. As Danticat's two young daughters played around her, the class was truly able to observe the famous Haitian contemporary author in her element. How was this feat accomplished? Through the use of fairly new Skype Technology.
Skype, a Swedish born company, was initially released in August 2003. However after Ebay bought it in 2005, Skype has become a very popular service, known for its free video and voice conferencing between Skype account holders.
Dr. Shea and other professors at Bowie State University have taken advantage of Skype technology to connect their students with people such as artists and authors that they cannot physically bring to the university.
Professor Tewodross Melchishua of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at BSU uses Skype often with his students. " Using Skype eliminates problems with budgets, plane tickets, time, and not being able to afford to bring artists, authors, and public figures here," said Melchishua.
Students in Dr. Shea's class had been reading Edwige Danticat's short story compilation The Dew Breaker as part of the curriculum and were delighted to be able to video conference with her.
Edwidge Danticat is a contemporary author quickly gaining affluence in the literary world. After immigrating to America in her teenage years Danticat wrote many award winning short stories and works of non-fiction about immigration and experiences in her native country of Haiti.
During the video conference with Dr. Shea's students Danticat shared that much of her work, including many of the short stories in The Dew Breaker, is dedicated to giving voice to the immigrant community and sharing the experience of trying become acclimated to a new place. " Junot Diaz said in something that he wrote that coming from one place to another is like time travel," said Danticat. " I remember writing Water Child (a short story in The Dew Breaker) and thinking about the idea of loneliness of people sacrificing so much and being afraid to be disappointed with this dream because there is so much blood sweat and tears spent on it," she said.
Danticat also shared with the students her experience of recently traveling to Haiti after the devastating earthquake. "Its pretty bad all around its worse than what you see on TV and the sad thing is that you don't see where it's going from that place which is heartbreaking," Danticat said. " Haiti is a place where you have two thirds of people who have no formal employment and the people who were working at the time were wiped out and we lost hundreds of students," said Danticat.
Even though there is complete devastation in her native country Danticat is positive about the future of Haiti. "There are some good things happening there are a lot of initiatives in the Haitian American community and other organizations to save documents and libraries," she said.
One of the most rewarding and comforting experiences Danticat has had in light of the tragedy in Haiti is knowing that her literature has opened up the eyes and hearts of many people to the situation there. " A lot of people would say that they feel more deeply for Haiti because they have read my book and feel like they knew Haiti somehow through the book that is the highest compliment at a difficult time and I think literature has the power to do that and it is a wonderful thing," said Danticat.
After video conferencing with Danticat students related how much they enjoyed the experience. "Being able to see her and speak to her made everything come together from reading her book and we got to see that she is very down to earth," said Kira Ward, a student in Dr. Shea's class.
Video conferencing through Skype will open up many doors for students and give them an opportunity to connect with someone they normally would not have had the chance to meet. Thanks to technology all students can have the experience of meeting and learning from public figures. Dr. Shea and other professors plan on using Skype video conferencing more often and sharing it with other professors in the future.