Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Landscape and Memory Talk

Landscape and Memory
In this lecture, Ms. Kincaid will read from “A Small Place” and “My Brother” and engage in discussion of the importance of our own personal landscapes, history and cultural identity. Jamaica Kincaid is a highly regarded writer and teacher who was raised in Antigua. Known for her candid and emotionally honest writing, in 1976 her work attracted the attention of William Shawn, former editor of The New Yorker, where she became a staff writer and featured columnist for nine years. Kincaid is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is currently a professor of literature at Claremont McKenna College.
Date : Thursday, March 31 2011, 11:00am
Location : Clara Thompson Hall at Drury University
Don’t you ever wonder what is best to include in a biography or introduction of a writer? Kincaid particularly confounds, and this announcement above is neutral yet informative. It doesn’t make claims, has no opinion, just a list of simple facts; however, I’m sure the writer puzzled about how to shape those facts-what to leave out, what to leave in. The writing completely bypasses the controversial nature of the mentioned books, the reactions and rebuttals. The entire reason that it might be interesting to attend the talk is not stated. I think that kind of neutrality is successful when the author is well-know. This write-up creates a feeling of respect for the author, while providing background for those who may not be familiar with Jamaica Kincaid.


Some thoughts on writing memoir:
I recently read that memoir exploited a writer's self-pity but that's not necessarily a problem. When I read sadness and regret in memoir, I think may be beautiful if it has a literary quality. I don't consider emotions self-pity.  Sometimes a memoir doesn't read well because of the author's writing skill. It's not that memoir itself is suppose to be a certain way, it's that some writing shows its baby-steps. I look at my earlier writing (teen years) and some of it is so authentic while other parts seem superficial because of writing  inexperience.   Frequently, I write in Oasis Writing Link about my mother's murder. I've noticed that writing I do now about that experience has changed over time. Maybe some writing must be written many times over the years before it feels as if you (as the writer) finally got it right.

An insight about how one writer experiences the writing process:

...there came a day when I hit a problem I hadn’t faced and didn’t  understand—now I see it was dramatizing a particular event, bringing it  to life, when I had some memories but some gaps and too few images. I  had a little meltdown. I thought I couldn’t write the book...

Jamaica Kincaid and Identity

When people write about Jamaica Kincaid’s books, they invariably write about her actual life. I contend that this tendency to reference back to the author is part of an audience management technique that Kincaid employs. She knows that people will try to make correlations to her life, and she uses this as an in-text background strategy. She mentions private and public details that directly relate to her life. For example, her selection of character names, Annie, and Elaine or the Richardson and Potter that comes up in her books. If someone knew her personally in Antigua, I imagine that there would be even more references that are locally known.
How Kincaid presents herself and puts herself inside the fictional text is a kind of autobiography. She is creating an of identity over the course of her literary work but what kind of identity? She continually moves in an every changing identity that becomes more Antiguan then more American. I wonder how her identity will be shaped by her move from the east coast to the west coast?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autobiography and Persona

Autobiography and Persona

Persona: The parts of our personality that are visibly manifested. (Carl Jung)
Reading about self and autobiography, it is likely that you will come across the idea of persona and authenticity. Persona can be thought of as the public self, the part that is visible because it is shared. If the self that is shared closely matches the self as it is experienced by the sharer (the autobiographer), then it tends toward being authentic. If the self that is shared through an autobiographer’s persona does not match the private experience, then it is inauthentic. Some could say it is false, however, there is some doubt about whether the authentic or core self exists.
The experience of real, as in “this is who I am”, changes over time and may seem real to the author at the time of writing. Additonaly, the author may decide that it is acceptable to shift the facts and compromise aspects of internal meaning, in order to communicate “better.” Still many memoirist realize that if “better” means that the writing is shaped in a consistant way,  a logical coherent presentation of a life, it’s likely that the story will be inauthentic. Most lives are  not consistant as people hold opposing ideas; which are ideas that conflict with each other in a non-unified self.
Thomas Larson, author of The Memoir and the Memoirist separates the meaning of persona by classifying autobiography and memoir in different categories of life-writing. “Autobiography is written by the public person who tells the birth-to-death story of her persona. By contrast, the memoir allows the authentic self to lift the mask and tell the story of how mask and self have been intertwined.”(129) Larson’s theoretical frame of reference is Jungian, and he believes that a core self exists and can be made visible through analysis and self-reflection, which may include life writing.  In his view, “The memoir’s aim is to beget the authentic self to come forward, to assume the mantle; expose the inauthentic,” and this can be done through the attempt at honest writing.
Jamaica Kincaid is a writer whose persona shifts, and her inconsistencies are part of the creative process of her shared life experience. She does not cultivate personality coherence, and resists being labeled and conveniently categorized. Would she be considered inauthentic by Larson? As long as Kincaid continually revises her identity, shifting and processing what feels real at the moment, it would have to be authentic. However, that does not mean that others who read her would notice (or want to notice) some of the inconsistencies. It is inconvenient to have to adapt the categories; feminist, African American, and Caribbean, to include someone with so many consistency-breaks in her persona. Kincaid does not want to police herself, in part, because she writes about power dynamics. And these encompass groups of experiences that are authentically true for many people.
Jana Evans Braziel, author of Caribbean Genesis, suggests that Kincaid is resisting a literal reading of her work by her conflicting statements about meaning and intention. She writes, “Kincaid’s project is undeniably about autobiography, but not one that can be unambiguously read, consumed, known mastered, and not necessarily her own, though autobiographical elements clearly enter into and find creative and imaginative representations in her writings.” (7)
Kincaid writes autobiographically, no doubt, but I don’t think that she intends to dramatically shift the truth for the sake of the narrative. Her writing comes from a creative truth that has a kind of emotional authenticity. Braziel quotes  Kincaid in My Brother, where she has a conversation with Devon about an incident that happened during her childhood. (Kincaid had written that her mother tried to abort her son.) In the quote, Braziel leaves out the part where Kincaid admits that both she and her brother know that she is lying about her work being fiction. She says that they decide not to talk about what is true. I think it’s pretty clear that she is admitting that the child who survived an abortion attempt was her brother.
People are authentic in many ways, and though it may seem counter-intuitive, one way that the persona is authentic is by showing inconsistencies.

An Interview (and incident) with Jamaica Kincaid

“Around Noon” at Ideas Center Radio 90.3
In this interview Jamaica Kincaid talks about gardens and clarifies that
Antigua doesn’t have gardens as you think. There are the botanical gardens that have plants that are not from Antigua and represent the spread of Empire,  and then there were the gardens similar to her mother’s which were grown to for food, medicines and sometimes because they were attractive.
The Garden of Eden
In the Bible it says that first there was the Tree of Life and there was the Tree of Knowledge. The Tree of Life, represents what is grown for survival and this is what people of Antigua grew. Knowledge comes after, and that is more like the botanical gardens, where people have the luxury to grow for beauty and uniqueness.
She remembers being taught and made to memorize the poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud”, by William Wordsworth in school. (She mentions that she wrote about this in one of her books (Lucy)) When she came across these flowers in Central Park in New York, she wanted to crush them all. “I hated them,” she says. Without knowing it, she understood that the flowers were representative of dominance and the spread of the Imperial project. She says that now she has planted 10,000 daffodils in her Vermont garden “in honor of Wordsworth”, and that she has “a daffodil tea party” every spring.
Living half of her time in California she has developed a fascination with the San Andres Fault in California. The natural environment interest her and she reiterates that
gardens for people with a lot of money. And that she was requested to speak at a botanical society that was full of “amusingly silly people” and that one, Mr Frank Cabot asked her to speak in Charleston, North Carolina. Upon her arrival there she saw a stature celebrating the vice president of Monroe, she found the statue and what it represented about slavery offensive. There was a talk about a garden that people who were going off to be incinerated made, a beautiful garden, and Kincaid felt that there was this up close history that people were ignoring. That the people there celebrating gardens did not make the connection between the history of the nearby plantation, Middleton, and the political violation. Mr. Cabot said he was sorry that he have invited her to speak because she introduced a political element to the organization’s talk. Kincaid told him that just outside was a pile of rubble that Sherman (the Union general) had brought down, as an aside she said, “I like Sherman very much.” She thought about the beautiful butterfly shaped garden and the rice field that was cultivated by slaves. She said that Mr. Middleton who owned the plantation where they were celebrating the after party was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independance. Kincaid was trying to communicate that there was no separation between the gardens and politics that “politics is not removed from gardening.”
She brought the topic back to contemporary times and mentioned the wind farms that are important to provide natural clean energy would also “make a number of birds extinct.” Her point being that though “the greenness of the earth is important…” it comes at a costs. She said, “I think that we Americans are not used to thinking that things costs something. We don’t think it comes at a cost at all.”
I thought the interview caught Kincaid at a period of transition in her thought and life. She uses the the pronoun “we” when referring to herself, which signifies a joining into this national group. She is moving her life over to California and is beginning to concern herself with the preoccupations of that part of the world, for example, the way the earth moves is fascinating to her and the transfer of her insight about the environment is broadening. She is accepting a position at Claremont College, a liberal arts college, and will begin to make her concerns felt there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

University of Penn Fellows Program

UPenn Photograph 2007
Kelley Writers House Fellows Essay on Jamaica Kincaid's Visit (Anna Levett)
Though she doesn't refrain from criticism (particularly when it's political), Ms. Kincaid herself likes to remember that we are all human. As our Fellows class discussion came to an end on Monday afternoon, she encouraged us to be bold, to go at the world with the same directness as a beam of light.
"That's the thing about being young," she said. "You should say all sorts of things-because you have to have something that you should be forgiven for when you're old."

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

Girl is published in At the Bottom of the River
    Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap; wash the color clothes on Tuesday and put them on the clothesline to dry; don't walk barehead in the hot sun; cook pumpkin fritters in very hot sweet oil; soak your little cloths right after you take them off; when buying cotton to make yourself a nice blouse, be sure that it doesn't have gum on it, because that way it won't hold up well after a wash; soak salt fish overnight before you cook it; is it true that you sing benna in Sunday school?; always eat your food in such a way that it won't turn someone else's stomach; on Sundays try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming; don't sing benna in Sunday school; you mustn't speak to wharf–rat boys, not even to give directions; don't eat fruits on the street—flies will follow you; but I don't sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school; this is how to sew on a button; this is how to make a button–hole for the button you have just sewed on; this is how to hem a dress when you see the hem coming down and so to prevent yourself from looking like the slut I know you are so bent on becoming; this is how you iron your father's khaki shirt so that it doesn't have a crease; this is how you iron your father's khaki pants so that they don't have a crease; this is how you grow okra—far from the house, because okra tree harbors red ants; when you are growing dasheen, make sure it gets plenty of water or else it makes your throat itch when you are eating it; this is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard; this is how you smile to someone you don't like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don't like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don't know you very well, and this way they won't recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming; be sure to wash every day, even if it is with your own spit; don't squat down to play marbles—you are not a boy, you know; don't pick people's flowers—you might catch something; don't throw stones at blackbirds, because it might not be a blackbird at all; this is how to make a bread pudding; this is how to make doukona; this is how to make pepper pot; this is how to make a good medicine for a cold; this is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child; this is how to catch a fish; this is how to throw back a fish you don't like, and that way something bad won't fall on you; this is how to bully a man; this is how a man bullies you; this is how to love a man; and if this doesn't work there are other ways, and if they don't work don't feel too bad about giving up; this is how to spit up in the air if you feel like it, and this is how to move quick so that it doesn't fall on you; this is how to make ends meet; always squeeze bread to make sure it's fresh; but what if the baker won't let me feel the bread?; you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won't let near the bread?
Student Film:
Jamaica Kincaid's short story "Girl"

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kincaid negates-It's not because...

St. Johns, Antigua, Gavin Hellier / Corbis
"It is not because it has a cathedral, a proper one, built in a Gothic style from a chalky Antiguan stone, and the cathedral has two domes, perhaps one for each of the Johns it is named for: the Baptist and the Divine."

"It is so that I hold that city dear above all the cities I have known, that strange place with the apostrophe in its name, as if it belongs to itself and to nobody else, not to me at any rate, for I could never, ever live there. It is the one place in the world where they let me know that they do not approve of what I have become and that is: a writer."  Jamaica Kincaid


Friday, September 9, 2011

Jamaica Kincaid as a Young Writer in New York

Portrait of author Jamaica Kincaid at her apartment on Hudson Street, New York City, March 22, 1985. (Photo by Neal Boenzi/New York Times/Getty Images)

BIBR Talks With Kincaid

BIBR talks with Jamaica Kincaid. By: McLarin, Kim, Black Issues Book Review, 15220524, Jul/Aug2002, Vol. 4, Issue 4
Section: fiction reviews
Author Jamaica Kincaid's work explores issues both grand and personal: the nature of individual consciousness, the pain of family relationships, the nearness of history and the devastation of cultural domination. She has published three novels, two works of memoir, a short-story collection and a gardening book Kincaid lives in Vermont with her husband and their two children.
BIBR: Tell us about your latest book, Mr. Potter. How did the idea come to ?u?
JK: It came to me in thinking about my mother. The more I thought of her life, and how it was that I grew up without knowing this person that she loathed and who was my father, the more I wanted to write this book. Here was a person she absolutely detested. She never introduced me to him and he never had any interest in me. Although when I became a well-known ]author], he came to visit me. When he found me not interested in the idea of his being my dad, he actually disinherited me. It's in his will.
BIBR: Were you surprised that he sought you out?
JK: I was stunned. I had never met him face-to-face.
BIBR: Did his wanting to resume a relationship surprise you?
JK: Well, that's the culture. That's the way it is where I'm from. Everyone lives in the moment. If your father decides after thirty-something years of not recognizing you, to recognize you--you will, of course, forget the thirty-something years.
BIBR: Is it hard writing about your family?
JK: That depends. I don't think I could write about my children--ever. It wasn't hard for me to write about my brother, although if he were alive I would never have published that book [My Brother]. But it is not difficult for me to think about my family or write about them, because my family makes up a great deal of my literary imagination. I can write about them in works of fiction or fact.
BIBR: And you do so interchangeably. The Autobiography of My Mother, although a novel, was at Least partly' about your own mother, wasn't it?
JK: It was about mother in that it was about the life of woman of her time.
BIBR: How do you decide whether to make a project fiction or nonfiction?
JK: For Mr. Potter it had to be fiction, because for one thing, I knew nothing about this man. I had only his birth certificate, his death certificate and his father's birth certificate to go on. I didn't know anything about him except that he was a chauffeur.
BIBR: In Mr. Potter you write that you are "in love" with reading and writing, despite having a father who was illiterate. What does it mean to be in love with words?
JK: Being in love is separate from loving. There is a mysteriousness to being in love, a freshness and newness that is powerful. For me, reading and writing are always new. I can't believe I know it and am attached to it.
BIBR: Did you always want to be a writer?
JK: No, although I think I always knew I was a reader. I thought writing died at the beginning of the 20th century, because all the works I read as a child were from that time. I thought writing had gone out of fashion until I came to America and lived with a family, and the man in that family was a writer. It was then that I realized people were still writing and that I might do it.
Interviewed by Kim McLarin

Interview with Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother

My Brother's keeper. By: DeLombard, Jeannine, Lambda Book Report, 10489487, May98, Vol. 6, Issue 10
Section: Featured Books
Jamaica Kincaid, the critically acclaimed author of Annie John and Autobiography of My Mother, has written a new book, the National Book Award-naominated, My Brother. Set primarily in her birthplace, Antigua, My Brother is a startlingly frank meditation on sexuality, death, and family that was provoked by her youngest brother's infection with HIV and subsequent death of AIDS.
Jeannine DeLombard: In your book you discuss your efforts to prolong your brothers life through medicine imported from the United States. You also describe how he went on to have unprotected sex afterward. How did it make you feel when you realized that your actions may have allowed him to infect others with HIV?
Jamaica Kincaid: Oh, I felt like an accomplice! It was something that I hadn't thought that would happen; I didn't think that the behavior he exhibited was possible. I felt like I was an accomplice to something criminal, and I debated what to do. I did wonder whether I was assisting something murderous. But then, what happened is, I think he really lost sexual energy. But in any case it turns out that he wasn't really interested in the girls. But it was true that at the moment I realized [her brother could be infecting others], it was frightening to understand that I had helped someone who, in many ways, was that unfeeling about his own self because it was about his own self that he was being unfeeling first.
JD: This book is clearly about illness and dying, but it seemed to me that it also gave you a space to think about sexuality in a way you hadn't done before, at least in print.
JK: I've never been afraid of speaking frankly about sexuality. I came to see very early in my life that it was an important language for a female to be comfortable with, because it is so often used against females in a damning way. I've always felt at ease with the language of sexuality, which, strangely, is a language that people find offensive, but it's only offensive because I think they mean to use our not having public familiarity with this language as a weapon against us. I hope I've always been comfortable with sexuality; if I haven't been, it's not out of fear, it's just because it han't made any sense in the books.
JD: Do you find that by addressing homosexuality, HIV, and AIDS, that you are reaching a different, or broader, audience with this book?
JK: No, as far as I can tell. The one thing is, my audience with African Americans has grown. When I first started to write, I'd go to a reading, and it was overwhelmingly [white]... maybe I d see one face. But as Essence and places like that review my books more, I have a growing audience among African Americans.
I think if I have gay readers, I've always had them. I think the book, for whatever reason, isn't so much about [her brother's] homosexuality as about his inability to be himself, and a part of himself was that he was a man who loved men, or who desired a sexual relationship with men. That he couldn't have felt comfortable with that, even to himself, was, I think, a great part of his inability to live. It really was a suffocation. It's really more about the inability to live. Now, often the inability to live as yourself involves your sexual l don't want to say these words, they don't sound quite right: orientation, identity--but who you can find happiness with is a deep part of your life, a deep part of how you arc made up spiritually. But we all suffer that, or, I should say, we are all vulnerable to that.
By Jeannine DeLombard
Jeannine DeLombard teaches American and African-American literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her book reviews have appeared m the New York Times and the Washington Blade, as well as Lambda Book Report.

Million Man March and an Interview with Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid: Writing for solace, for herself. By: Holmstrom, David, Christian Science Monitor, 08827729, 1/17/96, Vol. 88, Issue 35

Her work gives voice to the lone, struggling individual
Outside, freezing weather makes the air crack. Inside, with a cold gentleness, Jamaica Kincaid puts the recent Million Man March in the palm of her voice and squeezes.
"I find spectacles like that very disturbing and dismaying," she says, seated in a book-jumbled office here at Harvard University, where she teaches creative writing part-time.
"In America, it seems to me that people of African descent in particular are asked always to speak in group voices," she says, "and I'm not a group person, so it doesn't appeal to me. There is this terrible sense of group identity, but one really is a person. You just get out of bed every day with your own doubts and certainties, and they are your own."
Ms. Kincaid, born in Antigua in the West Indies, has arrived at a separate vantage point from most blacks to view the condition of black America. Like the protagonists in her celebrated novels, social context and politics are background noises. One struggling individual is the heart of the matter in her new novel, "The Autobiography of My Mother," as in her four previous novels.
"I am pleased to be black," Kincaid says. Her voice at times rings with Eleanor Roosevelt's high-pitched enthusiasm, spliced to Maya Angelou's precision. "I'm pleased about being black the way I have two eyes," she says. "I don't find particular pride in it. How can you be proud of something you can't help? If you don't like black people, don't like me. On the whole, I'm just myself."
When Kincaid arrived in the United States from Antigua in 1966 at the age of 17, she was Elaine Porter Richardson, a gangly young woman with a West Indian lilt to her voice and a job as an au pair. Luxuries like indoor plumbing were unknown to her.
In New York, Kincaid was fiercely curious and intellectually raw. She stumbled around the city for several years, completing high school and some college courses. Although treated cruelly as a child, she was conditioned not to bring shame on her family, particularly her mother.
"When I started to write, I was embarrassed that my family would know I was writing," she says of the first piece that the New Yorker magazine published. "There was no reason in the world for it to work out, so I changed my name because I didn't want them to laugh at me."
A writing career bloomed rapidly.
"I met wonderful people who were very kind to me," she says. Short stories about her West Indian life began appearing regularly in the New Yorker. Most reviewers of her books now bathe her regularly in the waters of praise for the "emotional truthfulness" and power of her writing.
What characterizes her works is a calm voice in trouble, an unsteady protagonist alternately bewildered and judgmental in her relationships -and always alone and intrigued by life's sharp corners.
"I am writing for solace," Kincaid says of her books. "I consider myself the reader I am writing for, and it is to make sense of something, even if to repeat to myself what has happened. Character and ideas are not separate from me. I don't like dialogue. I can't bear it. I do like reading it in other books, but I can't do it myself."
Asked if she thinks a troubled childhood forced her interior voice to engage in a dialogue with herself, just as in her writing, she answers with a laugh. "Oh gosh, that's interesting. You are probably right. Perhaps the only voice I hear is my own."
Married to a composer, Kincaid has two young children and lives in Bennington, Vt. Her childhood memories are bluntly shared.
"I was very badly treated as a child under the guise of love and attention," she comments. "But to be absolutely honest, it was not unusually so. I think people in that part of the world have humiliation and pain visited upon them to an incredible degree, and in turn they visit it on their children."
Her politics are unabashedly liberal. "I love liberals," she says. "I so miss William Kuntsler [an activist attorney who recently passed on]. He always seemed to be somewhere some misguided, lowly person had done some horrible thing.
"I don't think there is a failure of liberalism at all," she adds. "You can't get rid of poor people anymore than you can get rid of people."
PHOTO (COLOR): JAMAICA KINCAID: 'I consider myself the reader I am writing for, and it is to make sense of something, even if to repeat to myself what has happened.', ROBERT HARBISON - STAFF
By David Holmstrom, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bonetti Interview with Kincaid

The Missourri Review

Bonetti: Ms. Kincaid, in the novel Lucy, you give Lucy Josephine Potter one of your birth names and your own birthday. How closely do the facts of Lucy's biography match your own?
Kincaid: She had to have a birth-date so why not mine? She was going to have a name that would refer to the slave part of her history, so why not my own? I write about myself for the most part, and about things that have happened to me. Everything I say is true, and everything I say is not true. You couldn't admit any of it to a court of law. It would not be good evidence.
Bonetti: Your father, like Lucy's, was a cabinet maker, and your own mother married a much older man with whom she had three sons several years after you were born.
Kincaid: Yes, that is true. But here's an example of something that is true and not true: in "The Long Rain" the girl has an illness--a rite of passage, I guess you might call it--when she's fourteen years old. I had an illness like that when I was seven years old, and I was writing about that illness. I root my fear of rodents in that time of my life. I used to lie on my bed and look up at the ceiling, and I saw hundreds of rats running around the ceiling. It must have been only one or two, but they seemed to go around like a merry-go-round. It must have been a hallucination. I was left alone, and like the girl I did get up and wash and powder the photographs, but some of the photographs described in the book could not have existed when I was seven years old. The confirmation photograph, for instance, did not exist. I don't aim to be factual. I aim to be true to something, but it's not necessarily the facts.
Bonetti: Where did the story of the green figs and the black snake come from?
Kincaid: That was a story my mother told me about herself, but the outcome of that story as it is in the book is not what really happened. I tried to write a story about my mother and myself, and there were incidents that I perceived as betrayal, at the time, though I don't necessarily believe that now. In my writing I suppose I'm trying to understand how I got to be the person I am. The truth is important, but it's a certain kind of truth.
Bonetti: Even though Annie John begins and ends chronologically, it's not built on a linear model. A single one-time happening recurs in several episodes, taken from different points of view, within different contexts. Did you conceive of it as a novel or as a sequence of short stories?
Kincaid: I didn't conceive of it as either one. I just write. I come to the end, I start again. I come to the end, I start again. And then sometimes I come to the end, and there is no starting again. In my mind there is no question of who will do what and when. Sometimes I've written the end of something before I've written the beginning. Whatever a novel is, I'm not it, and whatever a short story is, I'm not it. If I had to follow these forms, I couldn't write. I'm really interested in breaking the form.
Bonetti: It is interesting that a story your mother told about herself as a girl--walking home with a bunch of green figs on her head in which a snake is hiding--becomes a parable that the mother tells the daughter in Annie John, to try to induce her to confess.
Kincaid: What did I know? I was writing this story and I had a lot of information about my family and their history, and I used it in this way. My mother used to tell me a lot of things about herself. It's perhaps one of the ways in which I became a writer. Why I used that incident, I can't really say. It was conscious and it was not conscious. A psychiatrist would see that it's not an accident that I picked that particular one to speak of seduction and treachery. As we know, the serpent is associated with betrayal.
Bonetti: In Annie John, Annie is praised by her teachers, and she even holds them spellbound with her writing at one point. When you were a girl in Antigua, did you have teachers who encouraged you and thought that you were special?
Kincaid: Yes and no. I was considered a bright child. I was always first, second or third, and when I was third it was considered disappointing. But to say people encouraged me, no. No one was encouraged. Some of us might go off to the University of the West Indies to study, or to England, but then what would we do? There's nothing in Antigua. I am from a poor family, and most of the girls who went off to university were from privileged families. Only boys could go off to university if they were from my background. If I had been a boy, there's no question that I would have been singled out.
Bonetti: So it was that you were a girl, as much as anything, that narrowed your opportunities?
Kincaid: It was. I can see that now. The other day I was reading the newspaper from my home--the government is very corrupt--everybody's always got their face in the newpaper for some terrible thing--and one of the pictures was a boy I used to go to school with. He and his brother once beat me up because I came in ahead of one of them in an exam. They thought that I had cheated; if I hadn't come in ahead of them, whatever glittering prize--a book of poetry or something--would have gone to one of them.
Bonetti: You had to have cheated because you were a girl.
Kincaid: I had to have cheated. But what happened to him? He's a member of the cabinet. There's a girl that I went to school with who in fact is the "Gwen" character in Annie John. She was a brilliant, brilliant girl but nothing much happened to her. She's a supervisor somewhere. There's no question, if she and I were boys, that we would have fared much better. As it turns out, for me, it didn't matter.
Bonetti: You grew up in the British colonial tradition, reading John Milton's Paradise Lost and the Bible. Are you conscious of the ways in which that kind of literature has had an impact on your work?
Kincaid: People have told me so, and when I read it out loud, I become aware of the influence of the things I read as a child-- images from Christian mythology and Paradise Lost. All of this has left me very uncomfortable with ambiguity. My sense of the world is that things are right and wrong, and that when you're wrong, you get thrown into a dark pit and you pay forever. You try very hard not to do a wrong thing, and if you do, there's very little forgiveness. I was brought up to understand that English traditions were right and mine were wrong. Within the life of an English person there was always clarity, and within an English culture there was always clarity, but within my life and culture was ambiguity. A person who is dead in England is dead. A person where I come from who is dead might not be dead. I was taught to think of ambiguity as magic, a shadiness and an illegitimacy, not the real thing of Western civilization.
Bonetti: That's the way you were taught, and so now that's your inclination.
Kincaid: Yes, yes. The thing that I am branded with and the thing that I am denounced for, I now claim as my own. I am illegitimate, I am ambiguous. In some way I actually claim the right to ambiguity, and the right to clarity. It does me no good to say, "Well, I reject this and I reject that." I feel free to use everything, or not, as I choose. I was forced to memorize John Milton and that was a very painful thing. But I'm not going to make myself forget John Milton because it involves a painful thing. I find John Milton very beautiful, and I'm glad that I know it. I'm sorry that the circumstances of how I got to know it were so horrid, but, since I know it, I know it and I claim every right to use it.
Bonetti: One book that seems to incorporate different cultural expectations and interpretations of the same events is Lucy. In one scene Lucy tells Louis and Mariah her dream. Their response, the western white response, is to look at each other and say, "Freud lives," or words to that effect.
Kincaid: The people in Lucy's society live for dreaming. They believe that waking life is informed by dream life. Where I come from some people act only on their dreams. All their non- sleeping actions are based on what happened to them when they were asleep. Louis and Mariah were in fact saying that her perception of the world was not valid, that she needed Freud.
Bonetti: My Milton professor once described the imagery in John Milton as being "highly visual, non-visual" imagery--because of Milton's blindness. You couldn't draw a picture of what John Milton describes, yet it is highly visual. Do you feel an affinity between that notion and the style of At the Bottom of the River?
Kincaid: One of the things that inspired me to write was English poets, even though I had never seen England. It's as if I were a blind person too. When I was about ten years old I read Jane Eyre, and at one point she describes the evening as the "gloaming." She's describing something English, something I would never see until I was thirty-odd years old. I got stuck on that word, and eventually found a way to use it in At the Bottom of the River. Then I was free of it. It was important for me to have written those stories, because it freed me of an obsession with a certain kind of language. I memorized Wordsworth when I was a child, Keats, all sorts of things. It was an attempt to make me into a certain kind of person, the kind of person they had no use for, anyway. An educated black person. I got stuck with a lot of things, so I ended up using them.
Bonetti: So you see At the Bottom of the River as a kind of catharsis?
Kincaid: I would not have ever, ever been able to say, "You know, I really need to write this, I really need to get rid of these images," but that's what I was doing. A sort of desire for a perfect place, a perfect situation, comes from English Romantic poetry. It described a perfection which one longed for, and of course the perfection that one longed for was England. I longed for England myself. These things were a big influence, and it was important for me to get rid of them. Then I could actually look at the place I'm from.
Bonetti: And what did you find there?
Kincaid: In the place I'm from you don't have much room. You have the sea. If you step on the sea, you sink. The only thing the sea can do is take you away. People living on a tiny island are not expected to have deep thoughts about how they live, their right to live. You can have little conflicts, disagreements about what side of the street to walk on, but you cannot disagree that perhaps there should not be a street there. You cannot disagree about fundamental things, which is what an artist would do. All they're left with is a kind of pastoral beauty, a kind of natural beauty, and wonderful trinkets. They make nice hats. They catch fish in an an old-fashioned way. It's all aesthetic, but it has no thinking it it. They cannot think. They will not allow themselves to think. They might have to change things, and they can't bear it.
Bonetti: Was it necessary for you to leave Antigua to become a writer?
Kincaid: Oh, absolutely. It's no accident that most West Indian writers do not live in the West Indies all the time. It's the source of their art, but they can't live there. The place is full of the most sewer-like corruption you ever saw. The ones who live there become obsessed with politics, and almost always stop writing. And you can't blame them, you know. There is simply no way to stay there and write. People there don't really read. They have cable television, thanks to America. You couldn't make a living there, you couldn't be supported economically, to begin with. But you wouldn't be supported spiritually, either. These are not places that support people. I was attempting to do this thing that, as far as I know, no one in Antigua had attempted to do. Part of the reason I changed my name was so that they wouldn't know I was writing. I was afraid I would be laughed at, though it would not have stopped me. Nothing has made me not do what I wanted to do.
Bonetti: So you changed your name to disguise yourself so that you could write. How did you pick the name Jamaica Kincaid?
Kincaid: It had no significance other than it was useful, to protect me from things. It was one of those things you do in the middle of the night. In those days we used to smoke marijuana or drink. I can't remember which one we were doing. If someone should say, "Well, you know she used to smoke marijuana," they should know that I don't mind that anybody knows. I try not to have too many secrets.
Bonetti: You're not going to try to get appointed to the Supreme Court?
Kincaid: Or become Secretary of Defense. Or marry the president. My husband is not going to be the president. It was just one of many things I was doing in my life to make a break with my past.
Bonetti: Perhaps I am identifying you too strongly with your characters, but Lucy talks about the fact that she realizes she's inventing herself when she starts studying photography, and you too studied photography at a certain point after you got here.
Kincaid: I didn't have the words for it, but yes, I was inventing myself. I didn't make up a past that I didn't have. I just made my present different from my past. How did I really do that? Just a few years off the banana boat basically, and there I was doing one crazy thing after another. How was I not afraid? The crucial thing was that I would not communicate with my family. Somehow I knew that was the key to anything I wanted to make of myself. I could not be with people who knew me so well that they knew just what I was capable of. I had to be with people who thought whatever I said went.
Bonetti: Do you feel like you were running for your life in the fiction by telling the mother/daughter story from different perspectives?
Kincaid: It was the thing I knew. Quite possibly if I had had another kind of life I would not have been moved to write. That was the immediate thing, the immediate oppression, I knew. I wanted to free myself of that.
Bonetti: It must have taken a great amount of focus and self- determination to become a writer.
Kincaid: I wouldn't describe myself as someone with focus and self-determination. Those are words and descriptions I shy away from. I consider them, in fact, sort of false. I find ambition to achieve unpleasant. The ambition I have is to write well. I don't have an ambition to be successful. I have an ambition to eat, which I find quite different from an ambition to be successful, though I think in America the two are rather bonded together.
Bonetti: When you came to the United States to be a maid did you have an agenda?
Kincaid: No. I did not know what would happen to me. I was just leaving, with great bitterness in my heart--a very hard heart-- towards everybody I'd ever known, but I could not have articulated why. It's a mystery to my family why I feel this way, because they see nothing wrong with what happened to me. If I had remained a servant, I would not have been surprised. I would have been in great agony, but I would not have been surprised. I knew that I wanted something, but I did not know what. I knew I did not want convention. I wanted to risk something.
Bonetti: You've done a very American thing. Like Huck Finn, you "lit out for the territory."
Kincaid: What good luck it was that I did light out for American territory and not Britain. I do not think that I would have been allowed this act of self-invention, which is very American, in Europe--certainly not in English-speaking Europe. When I came to America, I came from a place where most of the people looked like me, so I wasn't too concerned with the color of my skin. If I'd gone to England I could only have been concerned with the color of my skin.
Bonetti: More so than here?
Kincaid: Much more so. I was not used to American racial attitudes, so whenever they were directed at me I did not recognize them, and if I didn't recognize them they were meaningless. I had no feeling about my own race. No feeling about my color. I didn't like it or not like it, I just accepted it the way I accept my eyes. I'm sure people denied me things because of the color of my skin, but I didn't know it, so I just went on. That was not my problem. I didn't know that there were very few black people writing for The New Yorker, so I wasn't troubled by that. I actually knew nothing about The New Yorker-- its history, or its prominence in American literature--when I was taken to meet the editor. I was just a fool treading where angels feared to go.
Bonetti: You wrote "The Talk of the Town" column for about four years. How did this come to be?
Kincaid: How did I come to write for The New Yorker? George Trow befriended me--I think that is how I would put it--and was very generous and kind and loving. He thought I was funny, and he would take me around to parties. I was so grateful, because I was very poor. Sometimes the only meal I ate was those little cocktail things. He would write about me in "Talk of the Town." He took me to meet Mr. Shawn, and I started to write for The New Yorker. I gave George my impressions of an event, and they appeared in the magazine just as I wrote them. That was how I discovered what my own writing was. It was just all a matter of luck, chance.
Bonetti: Were you George Trow's "sassy black friend?"
Kincaid: I was his "sassy black friend," which didn't offend me at all. I seemed to be sassy, I said these things that he thought were sassy, and I was black.
Bonetti: How do you think the writing that you did for "The Talk of the Town" prepared you for the fiction?
Kincaid: It did two things. It showed me how to write, and it allowed me to write in my own voice. The New Yorker no longer has that kind of power, but at one time it could take any individual piece of writing, no matter how eccentric the writing was, and without changing so much as a punctuation mark, the piece became the standard of The New Yorker. It had such power of personality. So there I was, writing anonymously in this strange voice, and it looked like The New Yorker. It was a wonderful thing for me because I was edited by this brilliant editor, this brilliant man, Mr. William Shawn, who became my father-in-law.
Bonetti: Later. We have to say later.
Kincaid: Yes, he was very keen on not appearing to practice nepotism. Anyway, I had this wonderful editor and what I had to do to keep him interested was write clearly and keep my personality. And I did it. I could make him understand what I had to say. I doubt very much that I would have turned out to be the writer I am without him. He often bought my bad "Talk" stories, and didn't print them, but paid me for them, just so I could have some money to live on. The New Yorker, you know, used to support writers. Sometimes it didn't work out, but some of us kept on going. I wrote many very weird "Talk" stories that appeared in The New Yorker, very experimental "Talk" stories, and it was from them that I learned how to do the stories in At the Bottom of the River. Sometimes I was doing both; I was writing weird stories and I was writing At the Bottom of the River.
Bonetti: At what point were you Jamaica Kincaid, in "Talk of the Town?"
Kincaid: By the time I made the effort to write I had changed my name, so I was never anything but Jamaica Kincaid as a writer.
Bonetti: And "my sassy black friend" before that.
Kincaid: That's true. But it would be "our sassy black friend, Jamaica Kincaid," I was always named.
Bonetti: I read that there was a bit of controversy, at least among people privately, about the Louis character in Lucy being too close to an actual writer on the staff of The New Yorker. Did that surface in a public controversy at all?
Kincaid: I must say when I read that, it was a surprise to me. If it was a controversy among my friends, they didn't tell me. Everyone likes to think that everything is really telling them something about someone, but I never write about other people. I'm not that interested in other people at all. The people that I really want to say anything about are people at home, and even so, I muddle up characters. The true characters in Lucy are the mother and Lucy. Apparently it's the stock in trade of West Indian writers to write about their childhoods. Meryl Hodge's Crick Crack Money is a wonderful book, and it's about a Caribbean childhood, too, not unlike mine. It's true that women sometimes fall victim to a kind of narcissism. Certainly it's true in the West Indies. I went to a conference of West Indian women writers, very learned, brilliant women. Many of them said, "I know I should give my paper, but I'm going to tell you about myself instead." It was at that moment I realized that my mother wasn't that unusual. I don't know if this sense of "here I am, let me tell you about me," is universal to women, but it's a very West Indian trait. Maybe it is because she's confined to home and family that there's a great love of self as an aesthetic thing among West Indian women. It must be said they're very beautiful women.
Bonetti: The critic Henry Louis Gates, Jr. says that you, like Toni Morrison, "never feel the necessity of claiming the existence of a black world, or a female sensibility," that you assume them both as a given.
Kincaid: That is very true. I don't really write about men unless they have something to do with a woman. I was just reading an African writer who described black people as black. I couldn't tell whether he meant it as race or skin color. I didn't understand what he meant.
Bonetti: There's also an acceptance of androgny in your books, a completely frank treatment of adolescent sexuality between girls. "Gwen and I will get married," says Annie John. There it is, and no big deal is made of it.
Kincaid: I grew up with a great acceptance of female bonding. The greatest loves that I knew, and the greatest quarrels, the greatest enmities I knew were between women. I was very interested in feelings between these people, and I just wasn't going to worry about whether they were homosexuals or not. If they are, well good for them.
Bonetti: Another thing that you do with absolute matter of factness is to take the imagery of patriarchal literature--God, we all know, is a man and so is Lucifer--and without any ado, God, by God, becomes a woman.
Kincaid: I am writing about power and powerlessness and I think that these things have no sex. They have only their nature. I have never met a man more impressive than my mother. When Ronald Reagan was announcing the invasion of Grenada, at his side was Eugenie Charles, the Prime Minister of Dominique. If you were from Mars, you would think that she was the leader of the powerful country and he was the leader of the weak country. My mother is like that--grand and impressive. I've never met any man with that sort of personal power.
Bonetti: You've talked about your mother and the stories that she tells as being a part of what makes you a writer now, and yet you've also commented that it would never occur to people like her to step back from their experience and create a work of art. Can you elaborate on that?
Kincaid: I started to write out of reasons that were I thought peculiar to me--I was lazy and I wasn't really interested in being educated in a way that would suit other people. I was interested in knowing things that pleased me. For instance, I often read books on astronomy but it doesn't interest me to go to school to study astronomy. I became a writer because I could live a life that pleased me. I liked to investigate my own life. I liked to talk about my mother, her family, my life, what happened to me, historically, in my childhood, and I could only get to them in this way. I do not know why I am able to step outside and look. I certainly don't have more courage than they do, more education, more brilliance. My mother is an extremely brilliant woman. I do not know what it is that made, in me, the desire to do this thing and to seek satisfaction for that desire.
Bonetti: Have you come to the point in your life where you're comfortable with the enriching things about you that come from your mother?
Kincaid: Absolutely. There are many things about her that I've consciously tried to adopt, that I love. Sometimes I only write in her voice. I think the voice of Lucy is very much her voice. Her voice as a piece of literature is the most fabulous thing you ever read or heard. She is a person in her own right, but careless with her gifts. That's very painful to me to watch.
Bonetti: How do you mean that?
Kincaid: I perhaps am a writer because of her, in a very specific way. For instance, I love books because of her. She gave me an Oxford dictionary for my seventh birthday. She had taught me to read when I was three-and-a-half years old. There are many things that should have allowed her to free herself from her situation, and perhaps one of them would have been to have no children at all, including me. But you see her with these marvelous gifts and sense of self--people who have less of this than her have done things, ruled the world for instance. She's in her seventies and she's quite something. If she roused herself she could do quite a bit.
Bonetti: Have you ever felt that a part of why you write is to win your mother's approval?
Kincaid: When I first started among the things I wanted to do was to say, "Aren't you sorry that no greater effort was made over my education? Or over my life?" But as I've gotten older I am fairly sure that that's not a part of my life anymore. I didn't see her for twenty years, so the desire for her approval was greater in her absence. Then as we saw each other and spoke, I realized there was a certain chasm that could not really be closed; I just grew to accept her. I also wanted my children to know my mother, because whatever my differences are with her, I wanted them to feel a part of this person, and if possible to realize that some of the dynamics in my life were related. I didn't want her to die without closing that circle.
Bonetti: If you suddenly won your mother's total and unconditional approval, would you still be writing?
Kincaid: Now you've frightened me. I think it's not possible, but I no longer really want that. We're just two grown-up people living the life we chose to live. It would be nice if she understood certain things about me. On the other hand, she's in her seventies, she needn't make any new arrangements if she doesn't want to, and perhaps, new efforts are beyond her. I really don't look for that.
Bonetti: You've taken the facts of your biography and shaped them into fictions with universal appeal. When it comes right down to the bottom line, who do you think you write for?
Kincaid: I always assume no one will read the damn thing, you know. Not my mother, the person I really write for, I suspect. My great audience is this one-half Carib Indian woman living in Antigua. I imagine she doesn't read what I write, but I'm quite surprised that people who are the exact opposite of her find anything in it. I'm really quite amazed.

American Literature Defines Autobiography and Memoir

Creative Nonfiction: Memoir and Autobiography
"Many writers hunger for open, less canonical genres as vehicles for their postmodern visions. The rise of global, multiethnic, and women's literature -- works in which writers reflect on experiences shaped by culture, color, and gender -- has endowed autobiography and memoir with special allure. While the boundaries of the terms are debated, a memoir is typically shorter or more limited in scope, while an autobiography makes some attempt at a comprehensive overview of the writer's life.
Postmodern fragmentation has rendered problematic for many writers the idea of a finished self that can be articulated successfully in one sweep. Many turn to the memoir in their struggles to ground an authentic self. What constitutes authenticity, and to what extent the writer is allowed to embroider upon his or her memories of experience in works of nonfiction, are hotly contested subjects of writers' conferences."
From "Contemporary American Literature" Chapter 10 posted December 2006 (n.p.)

AP Image
Jamaica Kincaid's writing is referred to as autobiographical work.
After an introduction about women writers from the English speaking Caribbean Jamaica Kincaid is briefly mentioned:
"Rhys's work opened the way for the angrier voice of Jamaica Kincaid (1949- ), from Antigua, whose unsparing autobiographical works include the novels Annie John (1985), Lucy (1990), and The Autobiography of My Mother (1996)." (n.p.)

Answers dot com link to Jamaica Kincaid

A useful link at Answers dot com for information about Jamaica Kincaid

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Article on Elizabeth Bishop

Jamaica Kincaid mentions the influence of Elizabeth Bishop (her poem "The Girl"?) in the Aloud podcast by poet Elizabeth Bishop who also worked at the New Yorker with Jamaica Kincaid. (Aloud is supported by the Library Association of Los Angeles.)

Article on reading See, Now, Then 2011

Little Star 2
ALOUD photos April 2011
Reading of selections from See, Now, Then by Jamaica Kincaid
Kincaid is recognized as Mrs. Sweet (who speaks as Mrs. Hest). (article and photo credit)
The humor works because the fiction is read as true about Kincaid's life. The characters reference real people or at least real names. (All of the names are real in some way.") I think Mr. Mcgreggor might be a reference to Miss Potter's Peter Rabbit. She mentions (as Mrs.Sweet) the car that she is driving, which is a "Rabbit."

I don't think of myself as funny. It's a thrill and an honor that I've made you laugh."

She doesn't remember the first time she read this material. It was in Rome for the literary festival. 
(In a blog post published here on June 16.)

Jamaica Kincaid - Letteratura, Festival internazionale di Roma: "JAMAICA KINCAID

Participates at:
15 JUNE DESTINY - Life forms: choice and chance
Read: Il Decano e Mrs. Hess - Unpublished
Of: Jamaica Kincaid"

Jamaica Kincaid's theme for her June 15th reading was Destiny- Life forms: choice and chance. She read an unpublished work: "The Dean and Mrs. Hess." 

PodCast Jamaica Kincaid 2011

Jamaica Kincaid reads from her latest novel, See, Now, Then @ this link for more details
or click on the words Podcast here for direct access the audio. (photo credit found in article)

Jamaica Kincaid Video at MIT

"A Reading by Jamaica Kincaid" The lecture hosted by MIT Program in Women's Studies, MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, Council for the Arts at MIT was held on April 4, 2007.

“I rule out the memoir. It caramelizes and beautifies things…. I wouldn’t want to know how to make a beautiful thing. Implied in memoir is forgiveness that I don’t feel. I never forgive and I never forget, and I’m never cathartic.” Jamaica Kincaid (quote from MIT World article)

Jamaica Kincaid reads Biography of a Dress (and more) at MIT

Memoir on the Influence of Indians in Trinidad and Tobago

Zobi Fredrick, who migrated first to London and then to New Jersey and now lives in Clearwater, explains the influence of Indian culture on the politics, religion and everyday life in Uprooted: From Calcutta to Trinidad, published by iUniverse, a self-publishing company.

(excerpt from South Florida Times)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kincaid's Controversial Speech: Politics and the Garden

Jamaica Kincaid in Charleston, North Carolina
Kincaid took issue to President Monroe's VP -Daniel Tompkins and completely changes her planned speech. The organizers were angry with her" bringing politics" into the garden talk.(NPR Talk Radio)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Author Interview

"Frankly Speaking," The Caribbean Review of Books, 2008
The best interviews naturally have an element of surprise. They are autobiography and self-delusion, literary criticism and highbrow entertainment, hero worship and exposé, journalism and creative writing, all at the same time. We expect they will offer valuable insights into a writer’s artistic process, and we hope they will also offer gossip. We want to know how our favourite books came to be — inspirations, influences, intentions — but also what our favourite writers have for breakfast, and why their marriages collapse.


Experienced interview subjects (and readers) know there is an elusive relation “between authorial character, as manifested in literary works, and the personae and personalities of writers,” as the scholar John Rodden puts it in Performing the Literary Interview: How Writers Craft Their Public Selves (2001). As his title makes clear, Rodden argues that the literary interview is best understood as a kind of performance art. 

John Rodden 
Performing the Literary Interview: How Writers Craft Their Public Selves (2001)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jamaica Kincaid at the University of North Dakota Writers Conference

Jamaica Kincaid spoke recently at the North Dakota Writers Conference. You can find photos at this link
or through facebook. An attendee said Jamaica Kincaid was brilliant.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

YouTube Search: Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid does not have control over her online image:
The Rome Literature Festival Trailer is the only authorized video of Jamaica Kincaid: It has 45 views:
The thousands of other views are from unauthorized sources. Jamaica Kincaid does not have an official webpage.

Rome Literature Festival Trailer
Featured work: Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy is translated along with her other work at
LETTERATURE 9° Festival Internazionale di Roma 45 Views July 7, 2010
Il decano y Mrs. Hess
Un(?)authorized Published videos:

Junot Díaz and Jamaica Kincaid at the 92nd Street Y by 92nd Street Y 1848 Views November 16,2009

Anisfield-Wolf/SAGES Lecture by CASE (no name) 3127 Views October 26, 2009 

Student films and "Mockumentaries":

Student on sight? documentary for A Small Place 179 Views July 9, 2010

This Youtube is an amateur movie trailer for a nonexistent film, A small Place (lower case in video) staring Oprah Winfrey and is rated NC for "Extreme partial nudity"179 Views June 9, 2010
"This is a trailer for language arts class for the book a small place by Jamaica Kincaid"

Unknown satire (student?/secretmuffin124) featuring an actor pretending to be Jamaica Kincaid who is hosting a Badminton World Cup tournament.(racial stereotypes) 88 Views) July 10, 2010

Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" by GlamazonAR 1093 Views July 7, 2009
"Comedy Sketch"

Asian students film: "Girl" EngFilms (Audio removed by site)
2041 Views February 4, 2008

Another "Girl" student interpretation: "A recreation of the short story that piles on the stereotypes of what a woman should be." (Geno Sartori:/VeniVeniVenci/Italian) 5,350 Views February 23, 2010 

A project for a college Thinking and Writing course.
 "Girl" Asian students (Japanese/XvanrAy?) for an English Class June 6, 2010

"Girl" 2754 Views February 22, 2008
"Jamaica Kincaid is a famous writer from Antigua who wrote for the New Yorker way back when. This was a slide show based on her story "Girl" If you want to understand the slide show look up her story. It's quiet interesting."

An unprofessional video of Jamaica Kincaid seated talking into a microphone in Israel(? ) The video highlights her shoes.307 Views Estsegal1 May 3, 2010

Monday, April 4, 2011

Jamaica Kincaid hosts film: "Sugar Cane Alley"

Jamaica Kincaid in the Dakota community: A Writer's Conference

University of North Dakota on Friday and Saturday April 1st and 2nd

Final days: Friday and Saturday are the final days of the annual UND Writers Conference, including Friday night’s “Great Conversation” with author Jamaica Kincaid, at 8 p.m. at UND Chester Fritz Auditorium. All Writers Conference events are free and open to the public. A story about the Writers Conference and a schedule are published elsewhere in Friday’s Herald.

Jamaica Kincaid will take over at 6 p.m. with a showing of Sugar Cane Alley, a film about the life of a family on the Caribbean island of Martinique.  The evening and conference will close with "A Great Conversation with Jamaica Kincaid" at 8 p.m. (April 1, 2011)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kincaid's writing featured as "Literature of Domesticity"

Kathy Goldner, founder of Out Loud Audiobooks, will give a presentation on the Literature of Domesticity
at Belfast library ME. Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 6:30 p.m. at Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

Excerpt from article:   Goldner will feed the audience luscious tidbits from her favorite authors and explore the beautiful and moving, sensual and funny world of food, garden and knitting writing with Colette, Jamaica Kincaid, Bill Bryson, Vita Sackville-West, Angelo Pellegrini, Katherine White and others.

Goldner was taught to knit by her German grandmother, a World War II refugee and psychoanalyst who knit while listening to her patients. Returning to knitting many years later, Kathy founded Knitting Out Loud so that knitters could listen to histories and essays on their craft while knitting.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Allen Shawn Interview


Interview by David B. Green

Questions and Answers: A Conversation With Allen Shawn


On Jewish influences and family decisions about religion:

When I had children with my first wife [the writer Jamaica Kincaid], I didn't want them baptized. She grew up as a Methodist. I just thought it was terribly important to acknowledge the background that they had and have had, and in the end my wife converted to Judaism. She in fact became quite an expert on the subject and was for a time the chair of the board of the local temple. And my son had a bar mitzvah and my daughter had a bat mitzvah. They learned some Hebrew. As a result, I was in a synagogue quite a bit and was terribly moved to get to know a little more about Judaism.

On the privacy and personal autobiographical element:

 Your books are indeed both very personal and also fascinating introductions to mind science and the eternal nature-nurture debate. Was it hard to strike such a balance?
 Obviously, I tried very hard to find that balance. On the one hand, I tried to "personalize" the science, and on the other, to abstract my personal experience - or universalize it. I removed almost everybody's name from the body of both books, so that the books would be about family life and about fear and about mental disability, about difficult decisions and about loss - about themes that do apply to everybody - and not so much about the Shawn family specifically. Nevertheless some people still do put the gossip factor back into the book, and that is probably inevitable.

On his parents sending his twin Mary to an institution:

 I feel tremendous sympathy for my parents, dealing with what they had to deal with. Some people try to simplify these issues, how to deal with a child who is on a different plane than the rest of the family, but it is not so simple to determine what is best for the child, and what's best for the family. It requires incredible patience for those who are with Mary day in and day out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Allen Shawn New Book: Twin

Jamaica Kincaid's ex-husband Allen Shawn writes another memoir: Twin: Overcoming Remoteness
Positive book review by Michael Roth (President, Wesleyan University) February 6, 2011
Huffington Post

Excerpts from article:

It was only in recent years, as he prepared his subtly powerful and personal study of phobia, Wish I Could be There, that Shawn came to realize just how important Mary has been for him. Before that, all he felt "was a kind of blank place inside, where memories and feelings should have been." With Twin he tries to fill in that blank space, or at least to explore its contours.

Shawn writes beautifully, with an elegance, candor and tact that are remarkable. He is personal without ever being gossipy, and so this is not the book for those who want more dish concerning the decades-long secret relationship of his late father, New Yorker editor William Shawn, with staff writer Lillian Ross, or about the author's own 20-plus-year marriage to writer Jamaica Kincaid. His father's relationship is discussed because it now seems key to understanding the "religion of denial" in the Shawn household, but his own marriage and divorce are off-limits. Whether this is discretion or simply a continuation of the family tradition of avoidance is impossible to say.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kincaid's Positive Reception

Article PDF links and Kincaid biography

Also excerpt from A Small Place

Brandis University article quote: The The Independent Student Newspaper of Brandeis University

Kincaid said she feels a sense of narcissism and vanity about writing and reading her work to an audience, but added she takes more pride in growing a difficult flower than in her novels once they have been published. She showed her modesty and humor when talking about how all of her work is autobiographical, even if it's fiction, by saying, "It's not clear I'm really a writer. I aspire to be one," which elicited a chuckle from the audience.

Kincaid's new novel about Mr. Sweet...Is it autobiographical? Quote from Brandeis article 2006

After an introduction from Prof. Faith Smith, who chairs the Afro- and African-American Studies department, Kincaid, 57, surprised the crowd-so familiar with her bold, often angry prose-with a soft-spoken, British-Caribbean voice that was so hushed that the audience was inspired to stop eating their provided refreshments and listen. Standing tall with a head of neat corn-rows and a raindrop-shaped face, Kincaid gave a casual introduction to her new novel. The story deals with the Sweet family, who live in a small house in a small village, beginning with the birth of a son. Kincaid described the structure as involving a narrator who sometimes sees the future, sometimes sees the past and sometimes sees reflections of the past in the future; a format she said "sounds confusing, but makes sense to me." In the first pages of her work, through the eyes of the narrator, Mrs. Sweet is seen reflecting on both the destiny of her baby Heracles and on birth in general, which she describes as "a person forcing themselves out into a new set of experiences."

 Article by Kate Willard at the Brandeis University October 10, 2006
The long url:

New Play by Bess Wohl

Playwright Bess Wohl
Bess Wohl studied writing with Jamaica Kincaid
Pioneer Theater Company presents "IN "

Playwright Bess Wohl's other plays include Touch(ed), Fake and Cats Talk Back. Her screenplay adaptation of In was included on Hollywood's "Black List of Best Scripts." Since its premiere at Pioneer Theatre Company last season, Touch(ed) has been nominated for the American Theatre Critics Association Steinberg New Play Award. Cats Talk Back, a comedy, won the award for Best Overall Production at the NYC International Fringe Festival. Wohl recently wrote an original drama pilot for Fox, and is currently at work on a drama about meat for HBO. Her plays have been developed at The Vineyard Theater, The Pittsburgh Public Theater, The Northlight Theater, TheaterWorks, and The Geffen Playhouse. As an actress, Wohl has appeared onstage in New York, regionally and at Williamstown Theater Festival (five summers) and in numerous films and TV shows. She holds an MFA from the Yale School of Drama, as well as a degree in English Literature, magna cum laude, from Harvard, where she studied writing with both Seamus Heaney and Jamaica Kincaid.

Mauritius: Georges by Alexander Dumas

The Armchair Traveler 
 Forward in The Modern Library hardcover edition by Jamaica Kincaid.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Joanne Hillhouse on Being a Caribbean Writer; Writing Off the Map

Interesting autobiographical essay by Antiguan writer, Joanne Hillhouse, about her 'becoming a writer' experience. Writing Off the Map...the title reminds me of the movie Off the Map. Hillhouse is humble and yet honest about her value as a writer, she compellingly writes about her struggle and desire to be a recognized writer.