Friday, October 22, 2010

In the Attic with Edwidge Danticat

In my journalism, I never have the luxury of including every quote or topic that comes up in the course of an interview. I recently interviewed Edwidge Danticat for a piece in Express (which you can read here) about her brilliant cultural criticism/memoir Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work and I had to cut out this question:

In Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, you write that “the immigrant artist, like all other artists, is a leech and I needed to latch on.” You also mention in the introduction that the executions of Marcel Numa and Louis Drouin are one of your “creation myths.” How much of being an immigrant artist is telling other people’s stories, and how much is telling your own?

I think any artist is sort of a sponge and a lot of the re-creation of experience is a re-telling of your own experience where it encounters other people’s experiences. Being from an immigrant family, and with the past my family has, there’s always a person who tells it. As a result, people are often cautious around you. Even when I was a kid, I was the kid who told everything. I was shy, but I was a big observer and people were cautious around me when I started writing. My parents and my aunt spent much of their adult lives under the dictatorship, and even at the dinner table, where it was private, they would say, “is it safe to say this?” Having a writer in the family is counter-intuitive to that. Often when my relatives in Haiti read things of mine, they say, “how do you know that?” I always say, “I was listening when you didn’t realize it.”

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