Jamaica Kincaid

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Jamaica Kincaid
Jamaica Kincaid, Miami Book Fair International, 1999.jpg
Kincaid at the Miami Book Fair International, 1999
BornElaine Cynthia Potter Richardson
(1949-05-25) May 25, 1949 (age 64)
St. John's, Antigua
EducationFranconia College
GenresNovels, Essayist
Spouse(s)Allen Shawn
 
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Jamaica Kincaid
Jamaica Kincaid, Miami Book Fair International, 1999.jpg
Kincaid at the Miami Book Fair International, 1999
BornElaine Cynthia Potter Richardson
(1949-05-25) May 25, 1949 (age 64)
St. John's, Antigua
EducationFranconia College
GenresNovels, Essayist
Spouse(s)Allen Shawn

Jamaica Kincaid (born May 25, 1949)[1] is an Antiguan-American novelist, essayist, gardener, and gardening writer. She was born in St. John's, Antigua, which is part of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. She lives in North Bennington, Vermont, during the summers and teaches at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California,[2] during the academic year.[3] Kincaid is an award-winning writer whose work has been both commended and criticized for its subject matter and tone because her writing draws upon her life and is perceived as angry.[4] In response, Kincaid counters that writers draw upon their lives all the time and that to describe her writing as autobiographical and angry are not valid criticisms.[5]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Potter Richardson, in St. John's, Antigua, in 1949.[6] She grew up in relative poverty with her mother, a home-maker, and step-father, a carpenter.[6][7][8] She was very close to her mother for her first nine years until the first of her three brothers were born in quick succession.[7] After their births, Kincaid felt that she was neglected by her mother.[7]

Kincaid was educated in the British colonial education system because Antigua gained its independence from England in 1981.[6][7][9] Although she was intelligent and frequently tested at the top of her class, her mother removed Kincaid from school to help support the family when the third and last brother was born because her step-father was ill and could not provide for them any more.[7] At age 17 in 1966, her mother sent her to Scarsdale, an upper-class suburb of New York City, to work as an au pair.[10] However, Kincaid refused to send money home as well as open or respond to letters from home.

Family[edit]

In 1979, Kincaid married the composer and Bennington College professor, Allen Shawn, son of The New Yorker's longtime editor William Shawn and brother of actor Wallace Shawn. They divorced in 2002. They have two children: a son, Harold who is the music producer/songwriter Levelsoundz, and a daughter, Annie who is the singer/songwriter Annie Rosamond. Kincaid is also the President of the Levelsoundz fan club, which is the official fan club for her son Harold Shawn.

Kincaid is a keen gardener who has written extensively on the subject. She is also a convert to Judaism.[11]

Career overview[edit]

While working as an au pair, Kincaid enrolled in evening classes at a community college.[3] After three years, she resigned from being an au pair to attend Franconia College in New Hampshire on a full scholarship. However, Kincaid dropped out of school after one year and returned to New York.[12] In New York City, she started writing for a teenage girls magazine and changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid in 1973 when her writing was first published.[13] She described changing her name as "a way for [her] to do things without being the same person who couldn't do them -- the same person who had all these weights."[14] On her choice of first and last name: Kincaid explained that Jamaica is an English corruption of what Columbus called Xaymaca as well as it is the part of the world that she is from and Kincaid appeared to go well with Jamaica.[15] Kincaid became a writer for The Village Voice and Ingénue. Kincaid's short fiction appeared in The Paris Review and The New Yorker, where her novel Lucy was originally serialized.[16]

She is currently the Josephine Olp Weeks Chair and Professor of Literature at Claremont McKenna College.[17]

The New Yorker[edit]

As a result of her budding writing career and friendship with George W. S. Trow, the writer of the popular The New Yorker column, 'Talk of the Town,'[12] Kincaid became acquainted with The New Yorker's legendary editor, William Shawn, who was impressed with Kincaid's writing.[3] He employed her as a staff writer in 1976 and then eventually as a featured columnist for 'Talk of the Town,' which lasted nine years.[3] William Shawn's tutelage legitimated Kincaid as a writer and proved pivotal to her development of voice. In all, she was a staff writer for The New Yorker for twenty years.[10] She resigned from The New Yorker in 1996 when Tina Brown, the editor, chose Roseanne Barr, the actress, as an original feminist voice to guest-edit an issue.[18] Even though circulation rose under Brown, Kincaid was critical of Brown's direction for making the magazine less literary and more celebrity-oriented.[19]

Kincaid recalls that when she was a writer for the The New Yorker, she would always be questioned, particularly by women, on how she got her job. Kincaid felt that these questions were posed to her because she was a young black woman "from nowhere...I have no credentials. I have no money. I literally come from a poor place. I was a servant. I dropped out of college. The next thing you know I’m writing for the New Yorker, I have this sort of life, and it must seem annoying to people."[20]

Writing[edit]

Her novels are loosely autobiographical, though Kincaid has warned against interpreting their autobiographical elements too literally: "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."[21] Her work often prioritizes "impressions and feelings over plot development"[22] and features conflict with both a strong maternal figure and colonial and neocolonial influences.[23] Excerpts from her non-fiction book A Small Place[24] were used as part of the narrative for Stephanie Black's 2001 documentary, Life and Debt.[25]

One of Kincaid's contributions according to Henry Louis Gates, Jr., African-American literary critic, scholar, writer, and public intellectual, is that:

She never feels the necessity of claiming the existence of a black world or a female sensibility. She assumes them both. I think it's a distinct departure that she's making, and I think that more and more black American writers will assume their world the way that she does. So that we can get beyond the large theme of racism and get to the deeper themes of how black people love and cry and live and die. Which, after all, is what art is all about.[26]

Themes[edit]

Her writing explores colonialism and colonial legacy, postcolonialism and neo-colonialism, gender and sexuality, re-naming,[15] mother-daughter relationships, British and American imperialism, colonial education, writing, racism, class, power vs powerlessness, and adolescence. In her most recent novel, See Now Then, she explores the theme of time for the first time.[27]

Tone and style[edit]

Her writing has been criticized for its simplicity and anger.[12] It has also been praised for its keen observation of character, curtness, wit,[28] and lyrical quality.[29] Derek Walcott, 1992 Nobel laureate, described Kincaid's writing: "As she writes a sentence, psychologically, its temperature is that it heads toward it own contradiction. It's as if the sentence is discovering itself, discovering how it feels. And that is astonishing, because it's one thing to be able to write a good declarative sentence; it's another thing to catch the temperature of the narrator, the narrator's feeling. And that's universal, and not provincial in any way."[26] Susan Sontag has also commended Kincaid's writing for its, "emotional truthfulness," poignancy, and complicatedness.[9]

Influences[edit]

In Jamaica Kincaid stories, you can see how she wrote about the things that were happening around her life. According to Jeremy Taylor's article "Looking Back In Anger",[30] he says that Kincaid recounted real life events during in stories and how she never forget about where she came from. Not only that but she also uses real life people mostly her family in her stories as characters and often writes about herself. When Jamaica Kincaid very first started to write she always cared about her family and supported them in any way that she could, and she would often talk about this in her writing too. In her life, Kincaid did not have a good standing relationship with her mother but later they fell apart and she wrote heavily on this situation that occurred in her life in her stories.

For example, in her book “Girl”, it says that this was a story that she wrote about a mother and daughter bare relationship, this was an example of how she wrote about her life circumstances. In “Girl”, it discusses how the mother had a certain life style on how she wanted her daughter to live up and the expectations of that. Not only in “Girl“, but in most of her other stories, Jamaica Kincaid uses what happened in her life as a way to examine what goes on in life and what to expect.

Most of Kincaids influences toward her writing are simple situations on how the world was during her time and how she felt. Some of her influences in her life that she wrote about were her mother, the bible and her childhood growing up in general. All of these different aspects had an influence on her writings and would show up in them somehow. According to The Student Newspaper of Rice University,[31] an interview was done with Jamaica Kincaid and she talks how her childhood influences and how incorporate that in her books. A quote from Jamaica Kincaid says, “Her mother’s storytelling inspired her folkloric style and the many mother-daughter relationships in her work”. Kincaid life and work are always close overlapping when it comes to her writing style. So readers of Jamaica Kincaid, expect to find influences from her life growing up as themes and topics in her books, this what she loves to write about.

List of works[edit]

Novels
Uncollected fiction
Short story collections
Nonfiction Books
Uncollected nonfiction
Children's Literature

Interviews[edit]

Awards and honors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jamiaca Kincaid". Writers of the Caribbean. East Carolina University. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid". Faculty Profile. Claremont McKenna College. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Jamaica Kincaid". Voices from the Gaps. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  4. ^ Loh, Alyssa (May 5, 2013). "Jamaica Kincaid: People say I’m angry because I’m black and I’m a woman". Salon. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Loh, Alyssa. "Jamaica Kincaid: People say I’m angry because I’m black and I’m a woman". Salon. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "Jamaica Kincaid". Postcolonial Studies @ Emory. Emory University. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Jamaica Kincaid". BBC World Service. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  8. ^ Loh, Alyssa. "Jamaica Kincaid: People say I’m angry because I’m black and I’m a woman". Salon. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Garis, Leslie (October 7, 1990). "Through West Indian Eyes". New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Levintova, Hannah. ""Our Sassy Black Friend" Jamaica Kincaid". MotherJones (January/February 2013). Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  11. ^ Donna Halper. "Black Jews: A Minority Within a Minority". Ujc.org. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 
  12. ^ a b c "Jamaica Kincaid". Postcolonial Studies @ Emory University. Emory University. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid". Fu Jen Catholic University. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  14. ^ Garis, Leslie (October 7, 1990). Through West Indian Eyes. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Sander, Reinhard. "Review of Diane Simmons, Jamaica Kincaid". Caribbean Writer: the Literary Gem of the Caribbean. University of the Virgin Islands. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  16. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid", Literary Encyclopedia
  17. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid". Faculty Profiles. Claremont McKenna College. Retrieved 21 June 2013. 
  18. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (January 25, 1996). "AT HOME WITH: Jamaica Kincaid;Dark Words, Light Being". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  19. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (January 25, 1996). "AT HOME WITH: Jamaica Kincaid;Dark Words, Light Being". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  20. ^ Loh, Alyssa (May 5, 2013). "Jamaica Kincaid: People say I’m angry because I’m black and I’m a woman". Salon. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  21. ^ Kay Bonetti, "An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid", The Missouri Review
  22. ^ Cassidy.
  23. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid." Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction. Literary Resource Center. Web.
  24. ^ "A Small Place". Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  25. ^ "Life and Debt website". Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  26. ^ a b Garis, Leslie (October 7, 1990). "Through West Indian Eyes". New York Times Magazine. 
  27. ^ Loh, Alyssa (May 5, 2013). "Jamaica Kincaid: People say I’m angry because I’m black and I’m a woman". Salon. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  28. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid". Women Writers. BBC World Service. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  29. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid". Voices from the Gap. University of Minnesota. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  30. ^ Taylor, Jeremy. "Looking Back In Anger: Jamaica Kincaid.". Caribbean Beat Magazine. Caribbean Airlines and Media & Editorial Projects Ltd. Retrieved 16 November 2013. 
  31. ^ Samuelson, Ruth (18 May 2005). "Author Kincaid speaks about her childhood influences". The Rice Thresher. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  32. ^ Lee, Felicia R. “Never Mind the Parallels, Don’t Read It as My Life.The New York Times. Nytimes.com, 5 Feb. 2013: C1 Print.
  33. ^ a b "Jamaica Kincaid". Literature Matters: Writers. British Council. Retrieved 25 June 2013. 
  34. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid". Fellowships to Assist Research and Artistic Creation. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  35. ^ a b "Jamaica Kincaid". Tufts Now. Tufts University. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  36. ^ "Jamaica Kincaid Winner Of Center For Fiction's Clifton Fadiman Award", Book2Book, March, 25, 2010.
  37. ^ Cassidy, Thomas. "Jamaica Kincaid." Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Literary Resource Center. Web.

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]