Calling All Tourists

by alessandranakhleh

“If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see” (1).  Read the first line of Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place and be ready to strap yourself in for a ride.  Antiguan native, Kincaid is a novelist, gardener, and former reporter for The New Yorker Magazine, while also a professor of literature.  In a memoir just under eighty-five pages Kincaid wastes no time, but cuts right into the meat of her beliefs.  After experiencing a rough childhood filled with discontent, Kincaid has developed strong feelings for people who choose to vacation in her motherland.  Splitting her essay into four sections allows Kincaid to dedicate each section to a specific aspect of Antigua, giving her reader a look into both the past and present.  Assuming her audience is either American or European, Kincaid talks to the reader as a tourist who is presumably well educated enough to be aware of Antiguan difficulties, but carefree enough to push aside such knowledge in order to enjoy a vacation.  Speaking as an Antiguan, Kincaid states the reasons why a native “does not like a tourist is not hard to explain” (18).  Kincaid draws attention to those tourists who try to blend in with locals, while never failing to “look silly”.  Reminding the reader that Antiguans were once British subjects, Kincaid addresses the imperfections of her homeland, the “desperation and depression” (18) of natives, the envy they feel watching tourists indulge in pleasure.  Written in such a way that the audience is being questioned, we, as readers are forced to look deeper into ourselves to interpret what Kincaid is preaching.  It is each reader’s duty to decide whether or not they choose to accept the challenge of looking beyond the physical beauty of a vacation spot to see the true harsh realities.  In order to dive into A Small Place, a reader must have an open mind – ready to appreciate Kincaid’s different points of view, and along with an open mind, readers must be equipped with a tough skin – not subject to get offended when being called an “ugly human being” (14).  By the end of the short book Kincaid has inevitably entered the conscience of her readers by directing them to an unpleasant side of tourism.  As a reader I enjoyed Kincaid’s style of writing, and I felt I was able to appreciate her views, although, I do not agree with all of her claims on tourists, as I have been one myself.  Kincaid forces us to examine the culture of tourism, to think twice about the places we visit, and the people who call it a home, while directly encouraging us to view it as a place much more complex than its physical beauty.  I would invite adults of all ages to indulge in Kincaid’s point of view, allowing her message to spread, intoxicating the population with a deeper respect and awareness for the natives of their next vacation spot.

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