A Big Passion for A Small Place

by bmittlestead

A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid, is a powerful, well-written piece of non-fictional prose.  It is an opinionated overview of the many struggles on the corrupt, poverty stricken island of Antigua.  Kincaid was born and raised in Antigua, but eventually left for America when she was 16.  She utilizes her experiences gained on the island to help reveal her strong feelings of anger towards the many problems that inhabit in Antigua.  From the extensive political corruption to her loathing of tourists, Kincaid compels the reader to take on all the problems that Antigua has faced in the past and present.

Kincaid captivates the reader’s attention early in the book when she begins her outright assault on tourists.  She narrows her attack to the predominantly white, North American or European tourists that frequently occupy the island. Her unexpected but potent insults directed at this group illustrate her hatred towards them.  She refers to them as, “An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish…” (17) While Kincaid’s ruthless description of tourists is insulting to many of the readers, I believe that it is a much needed wakeup call.  She then goes on to direct her passionate hatred to Britain for their colonization of her small Caribbean island. She directly blames them for the absolute destruction of her country, and claims that, “no natural disaster imaginable could equal the harm they did.”(23-24)  This disgust of the British people is compounded with the fact that the Antiguans are forced to protest in the language of the people who enslaved them.  Kincaid also recalls the corruption and illegitimacy of the Antiguan government. This is incorporated with the irony of their employment of a minister of culture, when she claims that Antigua doesn’t have any culture to minister.  This is capped off with Kincaid’s mocking look at the “unreal” beauty that has blessed Antigua.

This book may not be quite what you are expecting when you first pick it up, but it’s aggressive and informative qualities make it well worth the read.  As a result of this book’s numerous different literary qualities, this book could be placed in several different categories and fit in perfectly. But one thing is for sure, Kincaid’s loaded words and heavy opinions are sure to leave you with a new view of the rest of the world.  Kincaid’s superior use of her poetic writing skills captures the cultural wreckage that is Antigua. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who has travelled or plans on travelling to any underprivileged country.  This 81 page piece of work leaves a long lasting impact that is uncharacteristic of a book of its size.

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