“I know this is what you do now,” Tante Zi said. “This thing with the writing. I know it’s your work, but please don’t write what you think you know about Marius.” […]
Because she was my elder, my beloved aunt, I bowed my head in shame, but the immigrant artist, like all other artists, is a leech, and I needed to latch on. […] The most I could do, however, was promise not to use her real name or Marius’s.
Many essays in Create Dangerously incorporate author Edwidge Danticat’s family and the dynamics of her relationships with aunts, cousins, and siblings. In the passage above, Danticat refers to artists as leeches, latching on to real life experiences—often sourced from their own personal relationships—as material to feed their creative energy and output. However, friends and family of artists may be uncomfortable or even quite upset to know that they are the subject of someone’s essay or poem or painting.
In this instance in “The Other Side of the Water,” what do you think are Danticat’s responsibilities to her family? Could her choice to write about the sensitive incident of Marius’s death damage family relationships? And likewise, what are Danticat’s responsibilities to her art and her readers? Is one more important than the other?
What did you take away from “The Other Side of the Water?” Share your thoughts in the comments!