Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interview. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Interview with Jamaica Kincaid

Does Truth Have a Tone?

Lauren K. Alleyne interviews Jamaica Kincaid
June 17, 2013

"For this interview, Kincaid spoke with me early one morning via Skype (once she’d awakened her son to help her figure out “how it worked”). We only used the audio feature, as she assured me I was missing nothing but the rumpled sight of her drinking coffee in bed. When she learned I was from Trinidad, she confessed to having made up, as a child, a cousin from Trinidad named Jillian—a way to keep up with her friends, who all seemed to have tons of relatives. I offered her use of my cousin of the same name, and so we began our conversation about fiction, non-fiction, history, and what it means to tell the truth."

– Lauren K. Alleyne for Guernica

Follow the link to read the interview:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Jamaica Kincaid Answers 10 Questions on YouTube

Jamaica Kincaid: 'I hope the reader won't look for clues to my life in the's about something deeper.'

Time Interview (Time Video)

January 28, 2013.
Belinda Luscombe

Friday, February 22, 2013

It's Not About Me! Interview with JAMAICA KINCAID

 Printers Row Journal Interview Kevin Nance


(click to read the complete version of the Printers Row Journal interview with Jamaica Kincaid published in the Chicago Tribune)

Author Jamaica Kincaid poses for a portrait in the backyard of her home in Claremont, Calif. on Friday, February 1, 2013. (Patrick T. Fallon, Chicago Tribune)

Q: And so the story of the family, including the decaying marriage at the center of it, is really subordinate to your thoughts about time.

A: Yes. You might be the first interviewer who hasn't started out by saying, "You were married to a composer, you have two children, you live in Vermont, so this must be about you." It's not about me. If I were going to write a book about me, believe me, I would say so.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Interactive Autobiography (TM) and Jamaica Kincaid: STUDIO 360 INTERVIEW


Studio 360


by Kurt Andersen

Jamaica Kincaid on The New Yorker and Lil’ Kim

"Kincaid’s work (Annie John, Lucy, Autobiography of My Mother) has often dealt with her Caribbean upbringing, but her new novel, See Now Then, is set in North Bennington, Vermont, the town where Kincaid has lived for many years. It’s the story of Mrs. Sweet, a mother with two grown children in a marriage that’s gone very sour.
Many particulars of the book — the town, the gardening, the Caribbean upbringing, the unsuccessful composer, the dissolving marriage — resemble Kincaid’s real life, but she insists See Now Then is not autobiographical. “I wasn’t thinking of myself, I was thinking of all sorts of larger things,” she tells Kurt Andersen. Kurt was struck by how the book’s prose is both “poetic, fragrant, and a little other-worldly but also ruthlessly and shockingly unsentimental at times.” Kincaid explains that “it’s possible it’s influenced by where I spent my forming years which is incredibly beautiful, but in which some rather brutal things happened in the world after 1492.”


Saturday, September 24, 2011

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.

Friday, September 9, 2011

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

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)

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.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Interview at New Yorks' Swank Royalton Hotel

Dwight Garner interviews Jamaica Kincaid

Lobby of the New York Royalton Hotel
Excerpt from Webpage:
Royalton proudly re-opens its doors onto midtown Manhattan, re-thought, re-imagined, and once again, a paragon of intelligent, modern design. Royalton's legendary lobby, long an inspiration for elites of New York fashion and media, is invigorated with handcrafted African touches, graphic fabrics, original murals and the warm glow of a cast-bronze fireplace

The remodel that occurred after the interview added handcrafted African touches.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Protection: Pride and Dignidad

Last night, I re-read the Jamaica Kincaid Salon interview (1995) and found the quote I was remembering but didn't know from where: "I have at my disposal a way of articulating things about her that she can't respond to." But she goes on to say that her mother shouldn't have had children and that she thinks her mother doesn't read her books." I used that Kincaid sentiment in an article I wrote and submitted for publication, but I remember not wanting to look for where it came from. I questioned the truth of the sentiment, I think. And also the idea that Kincaid's mother didn't love her and/or vise versa.

Recently, I read another article (by Maya Sela, 2010) in a newspaper that was written when she went to Israel this summer, she said that she thought her mother did read her work. She said, "She did read it. She was jealous of me. She just simply couldn't believe it." Kincaid goes on to explain the curious literary path her life took: "It really is an improbable story, my life. I mean, I grew up in this poor place, with very limited circumstances, at about 16 years of age was sent by my family to work, and instead of remaining in the position into which I was sent, I somehow worked my way out of it without any help from anyone, just luck." I think she means without family help or support because she does talk about a network of connections from Michael O'Donoghue (Saturday Night Live writer) who introduced her to George Trow (writer at The New Yorker) who then introduced her to William Shawn (editor of The New Yorker) and that these connections would be called help.

Her mother's reaction to her writing career is interesting: "[My mother] always thought that my becoming a writer was a form of putting on airs. She always thought I wanted to be something that I wasn't, that I was pretentious. She was never proud of me."

I was also strongly impacted by Kincaid's resentful comment about her mother charging people for interviews. I think Kincaid would expect that cunning from her mother, after all, it's an opportunity to earn money: "She did see my success. People would go to Antigua to interview her about me, and she would charge them [money] and would give them the impression that I didn't support her, and would say: 'Well, you have to pay me.' I never minded it because it allowed me to write more. She would say she didn't read [my work] and I thought: Good! I can say anything." That's what I read in the earlier Salon interview- that Kincaid felt that she was free to write/say anything because her mother didn't read her work. However, I thought she wasn't being completely sincere, but believing that her work was ignored by her mother, gave her the chance to express herself without reservation in the autobiographical mode. She says, "First of all, I think I'm writing very autobiographically, and my experience with the people I'm writing about - including myself - is not sentimental. It's very ... I want it to be true, to be real, and I think that romanticism interferes with what is true. And I think you should love the naked thing and then you can dress it up."

Kincaid says that the reason she changed her name (from Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson to Jamaica Kincaid) was related to pride, "I didn't want my parents to know I was writing. I didn't know if I would succeed at it, but I wanted to be a writer. In fact, I thought I would fail at it, and if I failed under another name they wouldn't laugh at me." She also reveals that she has a Jewish name, which is "Ruth." And that even though she is divorced now, she remains in the Jewish faith.

Kincaid uses her boldness to counteract feelings of shame. She says in the Salon interview that whatever causes shame should be shown to others as a symbol of pride, "...everything that is a source of shame you should just wear brazenly." I see strength in her attitude that reminds me of the Puerto Rican concept of dignidad. She has a right to her space/place in life. And in her stubborn insistance, she forces you to take her seriously.