72 Jamaica Kincaid

Jamaica Kincaid (1949- )

Jamaica Kincaid (1949- )

Antiguan-American

Contemporary Literature

Jamaica Kincaid, whose original name is Elaine Potter Richardson, was born in Antigua in 1949. She is currently Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University. She grew up in Antigua in poverty, and she had a troubled relationship with her mother, whom she believed neglected her in favor of her brothers. She has said that this relationship shaped her as a writer. As a teenager, she moved to New York city, where she began her career as a writer in her twenties publishing short stories in teen magazines but eventually publishing short fiction in The Village Voice, The Paris Review, and The New Yorker. While she has no college degree, Kincaid wrote for The New Yorker for nearly 20 years.

Kincaid’s work is often semi-autobiographical; she explores themes of race and gender, particularly in a neo-colonial setting. “Girl” was originally published in the New Yorker magazine in 1978. Written as a dispute between a mother and a daughter, it is a powerful illustration of the limits of a young woman’s life in the Caribbean culture of the time.

Consider while reading:

  1. Why is the story written in second person?
  2. What does the mother tell the young girl about her role as a woman?
  3. How does the tone change as the conversation progresses?
  4. How does this very short story reflect the author’s experiences?

Written by Anita Turlington

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