SPF 100

by ec

For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place presents a sentimental yet scathing commentary on post-colonial Antigua, the ten-by-twelve-mile island that she once called home.  Kincaid reflects upon the binary of a ‘white’ and ‘black’ Antigua, reminiscent of colonial corruption that is perpetuated by North American (or, worse, European) tourism.  Kincaid effectively contrasts Antigua through her eyes as a cultural insider and through the eyes of a blissfully ignorant tourist, to expose the truth about an Antigua that is no longer for Antiguans.

Driven by empathy, Kincaid’s stream-of-consciousness narrative serves as a constant reminder to the reader that they are an outsider, unaware of the harsh reality of ‘black’ Antigua, known only to those on the inside.  Kincaid immediately points her finger at the audience, and addresses them collectively as ‘you’ – pasty, sock-and-sandal wearing yuppies.  This ‘you’ grossly oversimplifies the reader to the one-dimensional identity of ‘tourist’ – synonymous to Kincaid as an ‘ugly human being’.  Though startling, this attack and alienation of the audience is Kincaid’s most powerful tool in stirring the audience to passion.  Kincaid offends with urgency, challenging the reader to think about who they are as – and the implications of being – a tourist. Kincaid’s critique extends past the boarders of Antigua into the homes of her readers, as she explains how there, ‘you’ are not ugly, but only become this way as a tourist.  Kincaid shows the irony in escaping from the mundane and banal of North American (or, worse, European) everyday life to a place where the ‘exotic’ is the crippling reality of the marginalized black Antiguans who struggle to find rest in their own home. Kincaid’s stylish wit leaves a lasting hand-print across the sun-burned faces of her audience, as A Small Place brings callous realism to the story behind the extraordinary.

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