Where Writers Write – Edwidge Danticat


Haitian-born, Edwidge Danticat in her Miami work space, with her daughters, Leila (left) and Mira.

“I like looking at faces while I work. Not actual faces, but paintings and photographs. I keep a pile of pictures, intriguing faces torn from newspaper or magazine pages, from which I might borrow distinctive features and gestures for my characters.

The paintings and prints around my desk are mostly gifts from friends and sometimes total strangers. I live between Miami’s Design District and Little Haiti neighborhoods, which means there are always amazing things to look at around me.

I was sitting in a neighborhood deli once having lunch with my daughters and trying to do a bit of work at the same time. Sitting next to us was Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, Muhammad Ali’s former physician and a well-known artist. At the end of the meal, he handed me a drawing that he had just dashed off on a napkin. Once when I went to visit my friend Edouard Duval Carrié in his Little Haiti studio with my oldest daughter, he took a picture of us and later enlarged it and put it in one of his signature frames. I like to keep those things nearby because they remind me of the indispensable generosity of my immediate and larger artist community.

However, the picture that has been with me the longest is a photograph of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which I’ve had since moving into my first solo apartment in my mid-20s. A friend who knew how much I love Basquiat gave me that picture, and fearing that writer-type notoriety might go to my head, wrote on the card that accompanied it, “Don’t ever believe your own hype.” I’ve had that picture on all my desks, at eye level, ever since.

Sometimes when I’m stuck and can’t write, I just sit there and stare at Basquiat. Or I sit under my desk and stare into space. Either way, I know that when I’m ready to get back to work, there will be all these faces there to greet me, silent witnesses to my days of both agony and joy.”

Find out more about Edwidge Danticat here

Source for photograph