An Unexpected Small Place

by vincentnguyen07

Jamaica Kincaid‘s A Small Place is not read by a typical Caribbean native. When reading this novel, you may look forward to a story about a personal struggle and an unstable culture which makes progress almost unattainable. Yet, A Small Place is vice-versa. It focuses on the tourism on the small island country of Antigua, and it holds several of industry for many of the problems that the country encounters with. Like the film Life & Debt, the novel is powerful and very one sides as well.

This short novel is written in the first person, but there are no characters or any descriptive scenes. Instead, it is an overview of Antigua when looked from the view of the native. Kincaid refers the reader as “you, or a tourist” as if you were actually visiting the country of Antigua. I was amused reading about Kincaid’s take on postcolonial Antiguan society, in character of tourism on her country, and on the corruption of big industries that avoids culture from thriving on its own. Perhaps that this small book filled the corner of my mind for deep thinking, or perhaps  that this book presented some of the cultural questions I’ve asked myself every time I visit the Dominican, however I found myself really examining tourist culture, and the way we observe any place of beauty and lost sight of those that are from there. When visiting the Dominican, it doesn’t take long to see and feel differences there when you step away from the resorts and nice hotels along Santo Dominigo, or any tourist attraction places, and go to any of the small communities that live on the island. The people and these communities are different and way more difficult than you had ever considered. When travelling there are many reasons why we travel, vacation, seeking for an adventure, or one of my reasons why I like to travel is, instead, not being a tourist, I become a cultural observer. Am I saying that when you pack a camera and become a tourist is immoral? No, but the point that Kincaid is trying to get across to is what we should remember and be aware of; that behind those photos, there are people who gain from your presence, and just possibly have hard feelings about the dependence that comes from you being there.

Overall I think many readers can learn a lot from reading A Small Place, especially if you are planning to travel anywhere in the Caribbean soon, read this to educate yourself or to develop your knowledge of Caribbean life. Although I like to enjoy and explore the lifestyle on my travels to different places, I personally wouldn’t feel any guiltier travelling to such a country and living the typical high luxury tourist life after reading this novel.



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