“As immigrant artists for whom so much has been sacrificed, so many dreams have been deferred, we already doubt so much. Who do we think we are? We think we are people who risked not existing at all. People who might have had a mother and father killed, either by a government or nature, even before we were born. Some of us think we are accidents of literacy. I do.”
— Edwidge Danticat,
Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work
I create, I write, because it is what I’ve always done. It is something that adds a distinct layer of nuance, complexity, observation, and love for life that no other action or behavior can imitate—it’s similar to one’s decision to fall in love, get married, or have children. Writing adds something to my life that nothing else can. It has saved my life. Like Alice Walker has said, “It is, in the end, the saving of lives that we writers are about.”
I’m a writer from a lineage of accidental literacy. I’m a writer who cannot escape her political inclinations because who she is manifests into a political statement. I hold firm to the belief that the political is the personal, but I believe that an artist must find a balance to everything. Stories are always more universal and—at the same time—more specific than this. They’re about falling in love. Or a relationship between a brother and sister. About searching for one’s place. Or the leaves that fall to the ground in autumn. About springtime, winter’s coldness, summer’s whimsicality—about beginnings and endings and the process in-between.
This is why I affix myself to James Baldwin’s call to all artists: our burden is to disturb the peace. Because the artist thinks-feels the most extreme states of the human condition (birth, love, and death), we fight with society like a lover and expose its unwillingness to witness its oppression, its loneliness, its refusal to see truth and its addiction to shadows. This witnessing fortifies our burden “to create dangerously,” as Edwidge Danticat says, to use our words as “disobedience to a directive.”
For me, writing is hard, it is difficult, I hate it most of the time, and I feel depressed constantly because of its demands and whips and needs. But what I love about it, what I need from it, is its process. I will always quote Flannery O’Connor to explain why I write: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
For me, writing is failing. Especially for an immigrant daughter—who inherited so much intergenerational trauma—like me. Writing is trying. Writing is becoming. Writing is taking what is left, what is broken, and with your hands, affixing the failures to what you know to be true, what you know to be good, what you know to be of the highest self, and with this in your heart and mind and soul, you make art. Make art out of failure.
For me, writing is my own way to decolonize, to strive for critical consciousness, to take my chances in the darkness and light at becoming whole.
For me, writing is process. Life is process. Writing gives me the Page to unleash, unburden, give, communicate, express, and fight against silence—just like how Vievee Francis’s blood-healing poem evokes in “Say It, Say It Anyway You Can.”
For this—this necessary call to action—I write, I create; for this, I live.