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Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work (Toni Morrison Lecture) Hardcover – September 19, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: Toni Morrison Lecture
  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (September 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691140189
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691140186
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In order to shield our shattered collective psyche from a long history of setbacks and disillusionment... we cultivate communal and historical amnesia..., writes novelist Danticat in this lean collection of jaw-breaking horrors side by side with luminous insights. This volume, which grows out of the Toni Morrison lecture series at Princeton, is uneven and inorganic in patches. But in Danticat' s many remarkable stories and pensées from the gut, one locates the inimitable power of truth. Authorship becomes an act of subversion when one' s words might be read and acted on by someone risking his or her life if only to read them. Danticat reminds us that, in a cruel twist of fate, her native Haiti, earthquake-and-poverty-torn, gained independence, in a bloody slave uprising, not long after the U.S. did: our ties, usually unexamined, run painfully deep. Whether eulogizing her family, writing on leading journalist Jean Dominique' s assassination and exiled author Marie Vieux-Chauvet, or discussing Madison Avenue Primitive Jean-Michel Basquiat, Danticat documents what it means for an immigrant writer to create dangerously for immigrant readers who read dangerously, awakened and no longer participants in a culture of historical amnesia.
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Winner of the 2013 Association of Caribbean Writers Grand Prize for Literature

Winner of the 2011 Bocas Lit Fest OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in Nonfiction

Finalist for the 2010 Book of the Year Award in Biography and Autobiography, ForeWord Reviews

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice for 2010

One of Mosaic Magazine's Best Books for 2010

"Danticat is at her best when writing from inside Haiti. . . . As [her] recollections show, her singular achievement is not to have remade the actual Haiti, but to have recreated it. She has wound the fabric of Haitian life into her work and made it accessible to a wide audience of Americans and other outsiders. . . . Danticat's tender new book about loss and the unquenchable passion for homeland makes us remember the powerful material from which most fiction is wrought: it comes from childhood, and place. No matter her geographic and temporal distance from these, Danticat writes about them with the immediacy of love."--Amy Wilentz, New York Times Book Review

"A lean collection of jaw-breaking horrors side by side with luminous insights. . . . In Danticat's many remarkable stories and pensées from the gut, one locates the inimitable power of truth. Authorship becomes an act of subversion when one's words might be read and acted on by someone risking his or her life if only to read them."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Danticat's writing is crisp and clear, reminiscent of what the very best essay writing once aspired to be. . . . Not just another writer's book about writing, this volume delves into the suffering that affects artists who suspend themselves from time and place to create. . . . Her book should be read by students, historians and lovers of well-crafted writing."--Nedra Crowe-Evers, Library Journal

"Danticat is a marvelous writer, blending personal anecdotes, history and larger reflections without turning the immigrant writer into a victim, misunderstood by all."--Sandip Roy, San Francisco Chronicle

"[Edwidge Danticat's] mission as a writer has been to speak from the diaspora for Haiti's disfranchised and silenced. . . . That responsibility weighs heavily in these essays, which dwell on her personal sorrows as much as those of the Haitian masses. . . . Her unlettered Haitian relatives call her a jounalis, a journalist writing with a purpose. She doesn't let them down."--Amanda Heller, Boston Globe

"Danticat's prose is spare and piercing; she doesn't waste words. Her ideas are never cloaked in layers of metaphor, yet every sentence has a lyrical, persuasive quality. . . . Within this stirring collection, one theme struck me more strongly than any other: for artists, the drive to create triumphs over everything else. Or it should. . . . Creating dangerously means telling the truth--working without or in spite of fear."--Jennifer Levin, Santa Fe New Mexican

"Whether she is profiling a courageous Haitian photojournalist, writing about a visit to relatives in a rural village, or meditating on the career of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Danticat is always also writing about her responsibilities as a part of what is called, in Creole, the dyaspora. . . . [T]houghtful, powerful."--Adam Kirsch, Barnes and Noble Review

"Whether the topic is Haiti's war of independence, 9/11, the artist, musician and actor Jean-Michel Basquiat, the January earthquake and its aftermath, Danticat writes with a compassionate insight but without a trace of sentimentality. Her prose is energetic, her vision is clear, the tragedies seemingly speaking for themselves."--Betsy Willeford, Miami Herald

"Danticat's writing is inviting, beautiful and honest."--Color Online

"[Danticat] avoids grandiose claims about the insightfulness of the exile--while honouring the complexity of the immigrant artist's role, with its precariousness and its drive to make connections."--Scott McLemee, National

"What is best in this collection are the vivid portraits of the author's childhood in Haiti (and then as a book-obsessed teenager visiting the library in Brooklyn), intermingled with return journeys to visit relatives, collect sacks of coffee and observe the nation changing. There are sharp thoughts on Basquiat, Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Haitian earthquake."--Steven Poole, Guardian

"Focused on her medium of 'word art,' though incorporating theater and visual arts, Danticat pieces together a multi-essay response to the creatives' lament . . . how do, why do and should we create, in this at-best messy and at-worst dangerous world?"--Kristin Theil, Oregonian

"Have you ever started reading a book which draws you in within the first few sentences and leaves you unable to put it down until the very last word and then, because it amazed and moved you more than anything you can remember, you immediately read it again? . . . Create Dangerously, is one of those books. . . . Danticat is that rare writer who can make you smile as your soul aches. Although Create Dangerously is not an easy book to read it is disturbing and particularly controversial in places it is, nonetheless, a consistently passionate, deeply thought-provoking and highly important book which should be read, reread and then passed on to new hands."--Josh Rosner, Canberra Times

"Danticat's voice offers a plaintive, entreating call for recognition of the suffering of so many in the world, and of their irrepressible desire to make life more meaningful by embracing art despite it all, no matter the cost."--Kerri Shadid,

"Throughout Create Dangerously, Ms. Danticat catalogs through personal narratives many of the dilemmas that immigrant writers face: readers and critics who question the 'veracity' of the stories; the accompanying guilt from the accusation of being a 'parasite,' and my personal favorite, the 'intrusion' into the lives of family and friends."--Geoffrey Philp blog

"Danticat's essays and her memoir are highly finessed and subtle. She breaches the vertiginous fault lines between the real and the surreal, between writing and archeiropoietos, between lòt bò dlo, and anba dlo. . . . [Create Dangerously] asks us to consider art and literature as vehicles for authenticity and self-expression, however dangerous that might be. This achievement is effortless and utterly compelling, with not one syllable or sentiment below guapa."--Michelle Cahill, Mascara Literary Review

"That Danticat engages and re-engages [the] complicated, important, and perennial questions of living and creating is one of the many reasons to read this book."--Danielle Georges, Women's Review of Books

More About the Author

Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti in 1969 and came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She graduated from Barnard College and received an M.F.A. from Brown University. She made an auspicious debut with her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, and followed it with the story collection Krik? Krak!, whose National Book Award nomination made Danticat the youngest nominee ever. She lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By DAC VINE VOICE on October 6, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus lecture Create Dangerously, and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself who create despite or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them."

The above is from the inside flap and truly captures what this book is about. Danticat opens with the 1964 public execution in Haiti, under dictator Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier of two artist, Marcel Numa, Louis Drouin. The author quickly establishes that some artist risk their lives to create and speak in a hostile environment. This work addresses the role immigrant artist must play for their birth countries that suffer from censorship and unjust rule. We learn about many Haitian artist. Some who gave hope and inspiration, others who were exiled or murdered. Danticat tells us about Jean Dominque, a journalist who spent his life speaking out against the government and was assassinated. Sharing stories and memories, Danticat makes Dominque real.

"During the dictatorship in the early 1960's, a young Jean had created a cinema club, hosting weekly screenings at the Alliance Francaise in Port-au-Prince. There he showed films such as Federico Fellini's La Strada, which is, among other things, about a girl's near enslavement as a circus performer. "If you see a good film correctly" Jean said, "the grammar of that film is a political act. Everytime you see Fellini's La Strada, even if there is no question of fascism, of politcal persecution, you feel something against the black part of life.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Marjorie Florestal on November 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The latest collection of essays/memoir by Edwidge Danticat reminds all of us of the true work of the artist: To bear witness to the suffering of others. Danticat trace's her own call to the writing life back to a Haitian creation myth that unfortunately was real. Under the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier, Marcel Numa and Louis Drouin -- young, educated Haitian men with everything to live for -- became martyrs to the cause of liberty and freedom. Drouin and Numa left their comfortable lives in New York to go back to Haiti and fight the overwhelming force under Duvalier's command. Not surprisingly, they lost. And they would be assassinated in the town square in full view of thousands of Haitians whom Duvalier had commanded to appear. This is not an unusual story under a despotic ruler (and certainly, it is not unique to Haiti), but what Danticat does with the story is unique. THIS is why we must have artists, she tells us. This is why we must have writers, painters, musicians, storytellers. This is the work of the artist, to tell the truth even when writing the words, and indeed reading the words, could mean death. Haiti has given birth to some courageous artists, people who were willing to speak truth, to write it, to take pictures, to sing about it, and to paint it on the doors of the country church. What could possibly motivate these artists in doing what they do? The reader. The witness. The audience. Danticat reminds us how important it is to have someone who will read our work and be renewed by it. I was surely renewed by Danticat's words. As a Haitian American and a writer, I feel a responsibility to write down my own stories so that they will not be forgotten. Thank you Edwidge for writing so clearly for those who otherwise might never be heard.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Anita on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed reading all the works of Danticat. With this book she shares with the reader the thoughts of the most creative people in Haiti and in the diaspora. Accounts of her own experiences and those of her family and friends are compelling. She looks into politics and how they affect the average Haitian. The chapter on the history of Haiti tells a clear story from the time of independence. I'd recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Haiti. Edwidge Danticat is an excellent writer. Her books hold the reader's interest from the first page to the last.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
To be understood, you have to explain why. "Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work" is a call from Edwidge Danticat as he urges immigrants to use their artistry to explain why they left their country of origin. So often, the abuses, corruption, and poor condition of the country of origin are not in discussion about immigration, and Danticat uses his own country of Haiti as an example to explain his own immigration. "Create Dangerously" has an important message that shouldn't be overlooked, highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By weser on November 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book as a required read in my multi culture English class in college. It tells of those who left Haiti because of the extreme persecution from the rulers, Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier. It tells of how immigrants who are living in exile here in US or any other country have to deal with the loss of the connection to their homeland. Their identity is destabilized as they are unable to claim both places so they end up claiming neither place as home. Torn between the roots of the past and the present moment.

This book tells of people who left but could not forget their homeland and their people. Some went back to fight for the people and were brutally killed by the leadership of the country. Others who are affected by diaspora may feel guilty because they are free and so many are left behind to suffer. The books in this class are not books I would choose for myself but I am glad they are required reading because I have a tendency to be like the ostrich. These books are raw and real and force the reader to LOOK when we had really rather turn our head.

I especially like a quote in this book by Ralph Waldo Emerson, "We, as we read, must become Greeks, Romans, Turks, priest and king, martyr and executioner,; must fasten these images to some reality in our secret experience, or we shall learn nothing rightly." These books are reminders of what evil can do when it is allowed to rule. These books make me appreciate more than ever our wonderful country that gives the people a voice and the freedom to speak and live. It makes us aware of the price our military is paying in order to keep us free. They are going against some of these countries who have governments exactly like those discussed in these books, ruthless and brutal.
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