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Becoming American: Immigrants Tweet Their Stories

Writer Edwidge Danticat at around 10 years-old with her brother Bob and cousin Nick in Haiti. She joined her parents in the U.S. a couple of years later. She describes it as a tough landing.

Immigration is a subject of intense political debate but it is also the subject of great art. For centuries, American writers and performers of all backgrounds have grappled with what it means to cross land and water — sometimes by choice, sometimes not — to take up life in a new world.

On Feb. 24, I will be joined in Miami by some of the country's most exciting young writers and performers who have also made such journeys and who have taken up the vital task of telling us what it means.

Acclaimed novelist and memoirist Edwidge Danticat will be one of them. She arrived in the U.S. from Haiti when she was 12 years-old. Her parents had come nearly a decade earlier, leaving her and her siblings with relatives. "Immigration was a necessity for them," she says. "My whole life was based on the fact that I was in Haiti, but someone would send for me one day."

Danticat has written several books, drawing on her Haitian heritage and her life here in the U.S. She will join me at a live event, created in cooperation with member station WLRN, for a night of stories, music, and poetry. Also with us will be President Obama's inaugural poet Richard Blanco, reggae singer and songwriter Etana and actress Diane Guerrero.

We will be inviting guests to add their voices to our nation's immigration story during a live Twitter chat. We will be joined by a diverse group — from entrepreneurs and engineers to performers and professors — to hear their stories of becoming American. You can join on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. ET, using #NPRMichel.

Joining us on Twitter are:

Fernando Espuelas @EspuelasVox, host and managing editor, The Fernando Espuelas Show

Maaza Mengiste @MaazaMengiste, writer, Beneath the Lion's Gaze

Noramay Cadena @Noramayc, MIT graduate, engineering leader @LatinasInSTEM

Adepero Oduye @adeperoOduye, writer, director, actor, Pariah, 12 Years A Slave

Victoria DeFrancesco @DrVMDS, fellow, University of Texas Center for Mexican American Studies

Nana Mensah @itsnanamensah, writer, director, actor, Queen of Glory

Tope Folarin @topefolarin, writer, Caine Prize winner

Kat Chow @katchow, blogger, NPR's Code Switch

Arsalan Iftikhar @TheMuslimGuy, editor @IslamicMonthly Magazine and Founder,

MaameYaa Boafo @MaameYaaBoafo, actor, An African City

Wayna @waynamusic, Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter

Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd of NPR's @AltLatino

Wilson Sayre, reporter @WLRN

NPR's Davar Ardalan will moderate the chat and Frederica Boswell will tweet from the live event using @NPRMichel.

And please follow and join on Twitter and Facebook in English or Spanish using #NPRMichel to share your thoughts, stories and pictures about how immigration has shaped you and this country.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

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