About the Book:

Paperback: 278 pages
ISBN-13: 9781951631031

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.

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 her father hid from her, as well as her own.

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. Find her at lillydancyger.com.

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
Negative Space is made of a daughter’s love, a detective’s quest, and a true wordsmith’s gift of beautiful prose. Dancyger pursues the clues left behind by her father in the provocative, often disturbing artwork he made, clues not only to his mind but to the central mysteries of her life. Her story itself becomes provocative, harrowing–and deeply moving. 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. In writing about her artist father, Dancyger has herself created a work of art.”
—Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body
“In Negative Space, Dancyger achieves that beautiful, often elusive, balance of writing about addiction with equal parts examination and empathy. Unraveling the missing facts about her father’s life, addiction, and death, through memory, investigation, and his art, she writes with an eye to understanding that we are all more than one “thing,” that parents are humans first and parents second, that people in the throes of addiction are multi-dimensional. As someone who struggled with heroin addiction for many years, as her father did, the care with which she told this story is exquisite. At turns heartbreaking, reflective, and light, I tore through this book and, when I was done, found myself returning to pages I had marked, passages I had underlined, because the story unfolds in layers, just like life does.””
—Erin Khar, author of STRUNG OUT: One Last Hit and Other Lies that Nearly Killed Me
“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. Like all great works, like those of the author’s father, this book resists description but articulates something profound—about grief, art, and love—that could not have been communicated in any other way.”
—Melissa Febos, Award-winning author of Whip Smart and Abandon Me
“Using images and text, NEGATIVE SPACE shows us the New York art scene of the 1980’s and the author’s late father—but neither are ghosts here. They are written with full splendor, tenderness, and possibility. Exploring her artistic legacy, Dancyger confronts what it means to create and build meaning from absence. 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