Negative Space (SFWP Literary Awards) (Paperback)
Despite her parents’ struggles with addiction, Lilly Dancyger always thought of her childhood as a happy one. But what happens when a journalist interrogates her own rosy memories to reveal the instability around the edges? Dancyger’s father, Joe Schactman, was part of the iconic 1980s East Village art scene. He created provocative sculptures out of found materials like animal bones, human hair, and broken glass, and brought his young daughter into his gritty, iconoclastic world. She idolized him—despite the escalating heroin addiction that sometimes overshadowed his creative passion. When Schactman died suddenly, just as Dancyger was entering adolescence, she went into her own self-destructive spiral, raging against a world that had taken her father away. As an adult, Dancyger began to question the mythology she’d created about her father—the brilliant artist, struck down in his prime. Using his sculptures, paintings, and prints as a guide, Dancyger sought out the characters from his world who could help her decode the language of her father’s work to find the truth of who he really was.
About the Author
Lilly Dancyger is a contributing editor at Catapult, and assistant editor at Barrelhouse Books. She's the editor of Burn It Down, a critically acclaimed anthology of essays on women's anger, and her writing has been published by Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Playboy, Glamour, Longreads, The Rumpus, and more. She lives in New York City.
“Negative Space is a lovely and heartbreaking book; navigating pain, inheritance, and loss. Dancyger’s father emerges from these pages as vividly as if I’d known him...” —Carmen Maria Machado
"This book is so many things: a daughter's heartrending tribute, a love story riddled by addiction, a mystery whose solution lies at the intersection of art and memory. Together, they form a chorus that I could not turn away from." —Melissa Febos, Award-winning author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
“Lilly Dancyger creates an unflinching account of her artist father’s snakebitten life and his struggles with addiction – peeling back the layers around an artistic practice that seems weighted with vulnerability. Ultimately, he comes painfully alive as Dancyger charts an elegiac path to her own self-discovery.” —Cynthia Carr, author of Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz
"Candid, thrilling, wickedly smart, NEGATIVE SPACE is one of the greatest memoirs of this, or any, time." —T Kira Madden, award-winning author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
"Practically hot to the touch." —BookPage (Most Anticipated Fall Nonfiction)
"This book gives powerful voice to women's rage in all its glory."—Pacific Standard
"Dancyger collects essays from 22 female writers contemplating (and unleashing) anger, continuing the #MeToo ethos of emotional transparency and righteous indignation, to bracing and powerful effect. The writers are a diverse group and cover a wide range of experiences.... [Burn It Down is] a cathartic and often inspiring reading experience." —Publishers Weekly
"Powerful and provocative, this collection is an instructive read for anyone seeking to understand the many faces—and pains—of womanhood in 21st-century America." —Kirkus Reviews
"This book is a true accomplishment, one that often left me stunned and disturbed in all the right ways, all the ways brilliant art does." —Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, award-winning author of The Fact of a Body
"Upon turning the final page, I felt both intense grief and pride, despair and hope. I ached for the daughter who missed her father—and truth be told, by then, I missed him too—but beyond that, I felt emboldened, energized, ready. Schactman once reminded Dancyger to "use the whole page" while drawing, to remember the negative space around the figure. It’s a lesson in the weight of absence, one that comes to shape Dancyger’s artistic practice." —Phoebe Journal