Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York. 1988. Farrar Straus Giroux. 0374266387. 81 pages. hardcover. Jacket design by Cynthia Krupat.




‘If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by airplane, you will land at the V. C. Bird International Airport. Vere Cornwall (V.C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an air- port named after him—why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument. You are a tourist and you have not yet seen . . .’ So begins Jamaica Kincaid's new book, which shows us what we have not yet seen of the place where she grew up—a ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies. First, there is the perhaps familiar aerial view of this longed-for place, the disproportionately large airport, the careening drive over bad roads in a Japanese taxi, the dilapidated school and hospital, the mockery of a library. Then there is the sea: ‘That water—have you ever seen anything like it? Far out, to the horizon, the color of the water is navy blue; nearer, the water is the color of the North American sky ... Oh, what beauty!’ What follows is less familiar, a new point of view, for it is unlikely that, on vacation, you have had the time to think clearly about the people you are visiting— their colonial history, their government, their manners, their sense of time—or about their opinion of you. You are English or European or American, escaping the banality and corruption of your large place; they are Antiguan, formerly British, and unable to escape the same drawbacks of their own little realm. This expansive essay—lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode—cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies.


Kincaid JamaicaJamaica Kincaid (born May 25, 1949) is an Antiguan-American novelist, essayist, gardener, and gardening writer. She was born in St. John's, Antigua, which is part of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. She lives in North Bennington, Vermont, during the summers and teaches at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, during the academic year. Kincaid is an award-winning writer whose work has been both commended and criticized for its subject matter and tone because her writing draws upon her life and is perceived as angry. In response, Kincaid counters that writers draw upon their lives all the time and that to describe her writing as autobiographical and angry is not a valid criticism.






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