“Flying Home” is probably my favorite essay in Create Dangerously. I’ve had a fascination with flying ever since I was a small child. I was immediately drawn in by and identified with Danticat’s descriptions of how she chooses a theme for her in-flight reading; how airplanes can so frequently become microcosms of community; and how precarious the line is between dull minutiae and life-threatening moments when you’re on an airplane.
However, what I appreciate most about “Flying Home” is how Danticat takes her personal experiences and extrapolates them into thoughts about the fleeting nature of flight—and of life. In discussing the life of Jamaican artist Michael Richards, who had a studio in the World Trade Center and died in the September 11 tragedy, Danticat writes on page 124:
Michael Richards was a poet of bronze and stone… His death was no more tragic than that of the nearly three thousand other people who also left behind fingerprints on half-filled glasses and lipstick traces on collards and strands of hair on brushes and combs, but he leaves behind something that speaks not only of himself but also for them.
To me, that paragraph gets at the heart of what drives a writer to write, a sculptor to sculpt, a dancer to dance. It also gets at the heart of why art is something that should be encouraged, celebrated, and protected. How we as people are compelled to create something utterly unique—and how that unique work of art can also be representative of a universal experience, of a common humanity—is both empowering and humbling. And especially for an immigrant artist, Danticat argues throughout Create Dangerously, the act of creation and representation is ever the more important in order to bear witness against oppression and to keep alive memories, moments, and ideas.
Do you identify as an artist? What drives you to create? As a reader, what did you take away from “Flying Home?” Share your thoughts in the comments!
One Book One Philadelphia