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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? A memoir from the editor of Burn It Down: Women Writing About Anger, Negative Space explores Dancyger’s own anger, grief, and artistic inheritance as she sets out to illuminate the darkness that was hidden from her.
Dancyger's father, Joe Schactman, was part of the iconic 1980s East Village art scene. He created provocative sculptures out of found materials, 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 the world that had taken him away. But 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 paintings, sculptures, and prints as a guide to piece together a truer story.

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Praise for Negative Space

"A lovely and heartbreaking book." —Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House
"Negative Space is a beautiful restoration act." —Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water
"Candid, thrilling, wickedly smart, Negative Space is one of the greatest memoirs of this, or any, time." —T Kira Madden, author of Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls
"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, author of The Fact of a Body
"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, and didn't wish to." —Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
"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." —Cynthia Carr, author of Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz
"Negative Space is a brilliant, moving, unique, thought-provoking meditation on the artistic life, fathers and daughters, and the struggle to live life at the highest pitch in each generation." —Mark Greif, author of Against Everything
"In Negative Space, Dancyger achieves that beautiful, often elusive, balance of writing about addiction with equal parts examination and empathy." —Erin Khar, author of Strung Out
A "fierce, intimate work" —Refinery29
“Dancyger’s eye for detail and devoted pursuit of grim truths make this an enthralling read. By shining light into the dark corners of her family’s past, she creates a brilliant and gut wrenching memoir.” —Adrienne Urbanski, BUST Magazine
"Imagination is Dancyger’s inheritance, and we feel electrified and empowered by association." —Lena Crown, Phoebe Journal
"The strongest portions of Negative Space explore Dancyger’s experience as the child of addicts. She largely parented herself, and when she builds a more stable adulthood than the one modeled by her parents, it’s a hard-won victory. Other children of addicts who experienced difficult transitions into adulthood will find much to relate to here." —Jessica Wakeman, BookPage