A New York Times Notable Book

A Miami Herald Best Book of the Year

In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile.

Inspired by Albert Camus and adapted from her own lectures for Princeton University’s Toni Morrison Lecture Series, here Danticat tells stories of artists who create despite (or because of) the horrors that drove them from their homelands. Combining memoir and essay, these moving and eloquent pieces examine what it means to be an artist from a country in crisis.


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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. 

“The most powerful book I’ve read in years. . . . A call to arms for all immigrants, all artists, all those who choose to bear witness, and all those who choose to listen.”

—Dave Eggers

“A singular achievement. . . . A tender new book about loss and the unquenchable passion for homeland.”

The New York Times Book Review

“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.”

— The Miami Herald

“Danticat is a marvelous writer, blending personal anecdotes, history and larger reflections without turning the immigrant writer into a victim, misunderstood by all.”

— The San Francisco Chronicle

“Powerful. . . . [Danticat] acknowledges that the prospect of writing about tragedies and vanished cultures is a daunting one, yet she is not daunted: she accepts that by some accident she exists and has the power to create, and so she does.”

—NewYorker.com's "The Book Bench"