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Book Review: Selection from Create Dangerously

In my creative writing class we are also reading selections from various other publications. This week our selection was Chapter 1 from Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat. In the chapter, she talks about certain parts of her Haitian background. She describes disturbing political incidents which occurred during the dictatorship of Papa Doc Duvalier, particularly the executions of Marcel Numa and Louis Drouin. She explains the significance of the event for her by saying, "All artists, writers among them, have several stories - one might call them creation myths - that haunt and obsess them. This is one of mine."

She discusses, in depth, the chilling effect such times had on art, artists, and the sharing of stories. She describes a sort of cultural oppression that went hand in hand with the physical political tyranny of the regime. On oppression which vilified such accepted classics as Camus and Sophocles. She talks about how plays would be put on clandestinely, sometimes in people's homes. It was dangerous to share certain stories. Danticat describes it as a time and place when, "strings of words ... uttered, written, or read, could cause a person's death."

But Danticat also speaks of the writer's need to write and the reader's need to read creating a kind of courage more powerful than the external dangers. And in one of the most amazing and eloquent passages I've probably ever read about creating/writing, Danticat says, "Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously ... no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them."

That part took my breath away. Really.


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