In a Small Place?

by Brian Rapanos

In a Small Place seems like an unusual title for this book. Geographically speaking, Antigua is quite small for an island: roughly 281 km2. When observing a world atlas, Antigua could easily be mistaken for an inconspicuous dot.  Seemingly enveloped by the surrounding waters, to say that Antigua is small might be an understatement. Regardless of its apparent physical size, Antigua is quite the juxtaposition when compared to the magnitude of Jamaica Kincaid’s words.

The passion exuded by Kincaid is frightening to behold. In A Small Place, Kincaid works herself into a choler of self-righteous fury aimed to expose the inequality, corruption, and injustice in Antigua. Few are spared from Kincaid’s wrathful words. In broad strokes she dismisses most of Western Civilization as well as the English and Swiss, but in particular her most spiteful comments are aimed at tourists- or “ugly human beings” (14). Her critique isn’t excluded to present times; she also denounces historical figures such as Christopher Columbus who were alive five-hundred years ago.

There is a lot of truth to what Kincaid says. Though watered down with sarcastic and biased overtones, Kincaid is exposing an often overlooked aspect of what many would call paradise. Oftentimes people are reluctant to question anything in life, preferring to stay content in ignorance. The truth can hurt and this book, if anything, proves that. Kincaid forces you to contemplate not only traveling, but the essence of Western life. Why is it that we need to “get away from it all”? What are we running from and, more directly pertaining, what are we running to? Antigua is not the only place with dual identities; Antigua could easily be replaced with Mexico or Hawaii. What Kincaid is saying is universal.

Born in Antigua herself and now living in Vermont, Kincaid is granted a unique perspective to address the issues of post-colonialism, corruption, and inequality in Antigua. These issues need to be addressed but Kincaid’s thoughts are disfigured with biased language and little understanding given to any perspective contrary to her own. Her statements are often over-generalizing and lacking in any academic weight.  I feel that her intense feelings are a major obstacle in achieving her means: that we no longer remain ignorant to the plight of post-colonial, poverty stricken countries. If a more rational, though no less passionate view was given, I would be more inclined to give weight to this book. To quote Mohandas Ghandi, “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.”

Word Count: 421


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