Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place

First, one quick afterward to The Outsiders. For those who don't know it was made into a fantastic movie in the 80s directed by Francis Ford Coppola. There was also a brief tv series in the 90s. Here's a link to the tv series episodes. The quality is not the best, but the series isn't available on dvd. http://s101.photobucket.com/albums/m60/SammyC09/The%20Outsiders%20TV%20Show/?action=view&current=One.flv Okay, now on to the next author, Jamaica Kincaid.

Jamaica Kincaid was born in 1949 as Elaine Potter Richardson on the island of Antigua. She lived with her stepfather, a carpenter, and her mother until 1965 when she was sent to Westchester, New York to work as an au pair. In Antigua, she completed her secondary education under the British system due to Antigua's status as a British colony until 1967. She went on to study photography at the New York School for Social Research after leaving the family for which she worked, and also attended Franconia College in New Hampshire for a year. Her first writing experience involved a series of articles for Ingenue magazine. In 1973, she changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid because her family disapproved of her writing. Through her writing, she befriended George W.S. Trow, a writer for the New Yorker, who began writing "Talk of the Town" pieces about her. As a result, Kincaid met the editor of the magazine, William Shawn, who offered her a job. Kincaid later married Shawn's son, Allen, a composer and Bennington College professor, and they now have two children.

Jamaica Kincaid is a writer I have a hard time with because she is so angry in her work. I can't relate to the anger of a post colonial society, because I did not grow up in one. She is so bitter toward everything English and angry at her fellows for not being better off Independent. Antigua became self-governing in 1967, but did not achieve the status of an independent nation within the Commonwealth until 1981.

Within the structure of the British educational system imposed upon Antiguans, Kincaid grew to "detest everything about England, except the literature" (Vorda 79). She felt first-hand the negative effects of British colonialism as the colonists attempted to turn Antigua "into England" and the natives "into English" without regard for the native culture or homeland (Kincaid 24). The effects of colonialism serve as the major theme for A Small Place in which Kincaid expresses her anger both at the colonists and at the Antiguans for failing to fully achieve their independence. She feels that Antiguans failed to adopt the positive aspects of colonialism, for instance a good educational system which might help the population to better their lives. This inability to promote the importance of education and hope for the future is symbolized in the failure to rebuild Antigua's only library, St. John's, which was "damaged in the earthquake of 1974" and years later, still carries the sign "REPAIRS ARE PENDING" (Kincaid 9)

This information comes from this website http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/Kincaid.html. It has more relevant info if you're interested.

I'm looking forward to reading this short book again to see if I can get past the anger and hear what she is trying to say. Or if anger is all she is trying to express. We'll see.

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