Immigrant Art

Often, in an immigrant family, it’s a very big departure for a child to say: I want to be an artist, not a doctor, not a lawyer, or an engineer. The father, here, tells his daughter what so many immigrant parents tell their children: Art is not the safest route in life. We didn’t sacrifice all this for you to take up a precarious profession.

He tries to comfort her, at the same time, by insisting that being an immigrant makes her an artist already. And this is a fascinating notion: that re-creating yourself this way, re-creating your entire life is a form of reinvention on par with the greatest works of literature. This brings art into the realm of what ordinary people do to in order to survive. It takes away the notion that art is too lofty for the masses, and puts it in the day-to-day. I’ve never seen anyone connect being an artist and an immigrant so explicitly, and for me it was a revelation.

Edwidge Danticat

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