A Small Place – Jamaica Kincaid
This is the third time I’m reviewing a book by Jamaica Kincaid. Every time I do, I get swallowed into the strangeness of her short but not so sweet prose. Reading her work is like sinning: it leaves you with a sour feeling but you keep coming back for more. It only feels like that because she brutally exposes the harsh reality of Caribbean life as either an islander, a WestIndian woman, a politician or a member of the elite and, as a reader, one can only suffer from guilt or recognition.
The events of Kincaid’s life reveal the reasons behind the constant themes and tones in her literature, and her literature reveals some rebellious aspects of her personality. A Small Place is the perfect embodiment of it all. Understandably, Kincaid suffered many negative reviews and chastisement for what seems to be her nonchalant boldness but in the book she remains true to her goal and that calls for positive feedback as well.
A Small Place is a four-part essay written in a conversational style. It begins with Kincaid encouraging the reader to conceptualize being a tourist to the pink and white sands of Antigua. En route to a luxury hotel, she explains the reasons behind all the Japanese cars on the roads as taxis - things that only an Antiguan would know - as well as the historical ties of local mansions. However, for Kincaid and the staff who work long hours in the hotel, its fancy façade is a disguise for post-colonial slavery. She also introduces the library and then explains why natives do not actually like tourists.
Kincaid reminisces about her childhood and how Antigua may have been a better place in that time, despite the fact that the only roads paved were the ones the Queen or a princess used once.
Kincaid explains the effects of colonialism that are still evident in different forms, but in a very personal format, expressing all her frustration and anger towards colonialists behind their various masks. She blames the Minister of Culture and Education for letting the library and the education system remain neglected, and the government for many other situations that any Caribbean islander knows about.
The ending of her composition, the fourth section, is my favourite. This is where Kincaid describes beautiful little Antigua and its people; an island so beautiful that its atmosphere is surreal and bitter-sweet to Antiguans who are trapped in its scenery but also its impoverished state. She describes the slaves who were brought to the Caribbean as “noble” and the slave traders as “rubbish” and a “European disease”. The slave descendants, however, are just ordinary like everyone else around the world.
A Small Place is, well, a small book! I would recommend it to anyone (except a sensitive tourist) knowing full well that it will evoke a reaction akin to annoyance, empowerment or rage. It doesn’t matter which because, in my perspective, either way it’s a reminder that our country suffers some of the same things as Antigua.
Jamaica Kincaid and her works are admired by Sir Derek Walcott. She is scheduled to be the featured lecturer for our 2017 Nobel Laureate Festival.
This book is available at The bookYard. Visit us today, email us at the bookyard@ stluciastar.com, or call the Star on 450 7827 for more details.