First of all my good friend and filmmaker Dehanza Rogers is currently trying to raise funding for her magical-realist, Haitian short film, Lwa. Please take a look at her Kickstarter page. Really, even a small contribution will go a long way to helping support a filmmaker I believe in.
Over the next couple of weeks, Daye and I are reading through Edwidge Danticat’s latest collection of essays, Create Dangerously, and have agreed to post a few comments back and forth. We did this once before a while ago and it’s not too late for you to grab a copy and join us as we read at the accommodating, glacial pace of two chapters a week. [Though I know Daye’s familiar with Danticat’s work, this collection got my attention via this post.]
For me, I am reading this book largely oblivious to the Haitian culture from which Danticat is writing and I’m hoping to use this dialogue as a space to understand better both the space of art from which both Danticat and Daye are producing from and within.
I’m struck by the fact that the titles of the first two chapters of the book serve as gentle and opposing commands: “Create Dangerously” and “Walk Straight.” As if the role of the “Immigrant Artist at Work” traverses the careful balance of producing with criticality and toeing an existing conceit. An interesting balancing act; I know how this tension is played out in the public eye for Danticat based on her reflections in “Walk Straight.” Daye, I’m curious how you are working between both of these.
As for the content, I like the way Danticat’s own perspectives as a creator are steeped in a history –familial, national, cultural, universal. The Haitian political figures that begin the book, the subterfugre, assassinations, and secret police reminded me Graham Greene’s lesser work, The Comedians and I was pleased to see Danticat reference it directly (as well as Greene’s exile from Hatia as a result of his choice of dangerously creating the accurate portrayl of the dictatoriship within the novel). [As a brief aside, I want to point out that I purchased The Comedians as a used bookstore solely because of a blind faith in Greene’s writing and the incredible cover art.] I am struck by the idea that, “there is probably no such thing as an immigrant artist in this globalized age.” While I don’t necessarily agree with Danticat’s claim here, I am curious about what authorial advantages are gained by vantage of the “immigrant” in the flattened world so many are pointing to.
I don’t want to make this too long as Daye and I will be checking in over the course of the book, so I’ll end by examining a quote from the second chapter: “Anguished by my own sense of guilt, I often reply feebly that in writing what I do, I exploit no one more than myself.” I’ve find myself empathizing with Danticat’s claim here and wonder how you, Daye, see this quote in relation to your own work and in particular to Lwa.