Archive for ‘Non-Fiction’

March 21, 2011

A Small Place With A Big Dilemma

by jahanbakhsh

I imagined four short untitled sections in a novel must be something vague and incomplete; however, I was mistaken. The writer has a strong point of view that attacks readers and draws them in at the same time.  Jamaica Kincaid writes with vehement hostility and uses sarcastic remarks towards anyone from the colonial past or the tourist-driven present. Although Kincaid writes with enraged, blunt, and impolite expressions, she has without a doubt convinced me with her words. Indeed, a story of a small place; nine miles wide by twelve miles long; one about the ugly underbelly of tourism and the irreversible history of the island called Antigua.

As shocked and uneasy as I felt due to Kincaid’s words, I was mostly thankful for her piece of work, for it has made me think deeply and critically. We travel to Hawaii or other Caribbean islands with only a seven-day paradise on our minds. We only think of somewhere warm by the beach and often forget about whose beaches we are on and why we do not see any locals around us (other than the servers).

Kincaid reminds us of the questions we sometimes ask ourselves while traveling like: “doesn’t this island have poverty?” These moments are fleeting. We go back to enjoying our five star hotel, drinking a margarita whilst tanning in the sun. She reminds us of what we should be aware of; the people who live there (who may or may not even want us there) as we may be “invading” their land.

Above all, I loved Kincaid’s harsh words. I am so much more aware and educated about being a tourist and will always remember the sensitivity and respect I should have for those whose land I am visiting

 

March 17, 2011

What YOU Should Know

by alyssajai

In Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, Kincaid uses her literary talent to address life in her birthplace of Antigua. Using a unique approach, Kincaid discusses Antigua as an escape from reality for vacationers versus the actual reality the natives face. Exploring this irony, Kincaid divulges into the raw history of colonization and corruption as well as the injustices occurring today. Writing with swift lyric, Kincaid poetically allows the reader to discover the richness of the world and culture beyond the sandy beaches, blue water, and never-ending sun or Antigua.
Kincaid very purposely addresses the reader as a tourist who is “- to be frank, white” (4). This attack on the reader is simply that, an attack. Not only does Kincaid describe the actions of a typical traveler but she also attaches a racial bias. Kincaid draws a distinct line between the native and non- native. As she emphasizes to the reader that the natives “cannot stand you” she ultimately advertises Antigua as a place “YOU” should not travel to (17). However, although this attack on the reader can be disconcerting, Kincaid uses it to emphasize the depth of differences between the native culture and the visiting culture. The conditions of the local community are again highlighted as the reader is places at the opposite spectrum in every way possibly. The dual perspectives Kincaid uses provide the text with an overall sense of Antigua. Although the visitor sees the climate as “deliciously hot and dry” it does not mean this is not so (4). However, Kincaid uses the polar opposite view of the residing community to also acknowledge that they “suffer constantly from drought” and this is an issue that they struggle to deal with (4). Kincaid utilizes typical aspects and traits of western culture to stress the corruption and issues present within her home country.
Ultimately, Kincaid forces the reader to explore Antigua from the view of a born and raised Antiguan. She uses a unique style to engage the reader and force the reader to uncover problems within the country. She illustrates the historical corruption within Antigua and also those which exist today. Kincaid’s irresistible style ultimately explores Antigua and the conditions that the culture has faced.

Word Count: 368

Work’s Cited
Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1988. Print.

March 15, 2011

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.

March 15, 2011

Wanted: Resilient Readers

by derekmcc

The novel by Jamacia Kincaid titled A Small Place is a book that acquires mixed reviews due the aggressive nature of the author’s tone throughout the book. This piece explores the effects of colonialism on Antigua as well as the roles played by tourism and government corruption on the suppression of Antiguan culture and economy. Despite its short length relative to other novels, it packs with it many questions that encourage the reader to critically analyze the topics all through the book.

A refreshing, yet controversial, new style of raising awareness to important issues is introduced in this novel. A common way of seeking attention is the method of pleading and begging for the reader’s (or in the case of infomercials, the viewer’s) attention. However, in this book the author uses a very unique technique of verbally attacking and accusing the reader to capture attention. This new, hostile approach effectively dares the reader to break free from the bindings of regular westernized life and reanalyze the world they perceive by criticizing him or her, as shown in the quote “as an ordinary person you are not well equipped to look too far inward and set yourself aright”. This style may aggravate the reader at first, but the vivid depictions of government corruption as luxurious mansions for those in power flourish while schools and libraries deteriorate will soon give the reader an understanding of the frustration see through a native’s eye.

I, like many, was at first quite irritated with the books virtually racist stereotypes of Caucasians.  However, as the cultural concealment is illustrated as a consequence of colonialism, I began to understand the hardships felt by the Antiguans. The images of colonial and post-colonial Antigua depicted by Kincaid also effectively reflect on main themes. It would be a mistake to take offense to this book before understanding its true intent.

 

March 15, 2011

Circumstances Made Me What I Am, Everyone Must Understand

by bubblesheets

Like the unyielding Antiguan sun beating down with constant intensity on “pastrylike” vacationers, in A Small Place Jamaica Kincaid is relentless in scorching the Neo-colonialism of modern Caribbean tourism and its defilement of her native land. Making no attempts to befriend the reader Kincaid artfully generalizes, and then embarrasses (à la Reductio ad absurdum) the behaviour of all “white” visitors.

Kincaid immediately creates rigid borders and boundaries between the “real” Antiguans, descendants of black slaves who inhabit the island (who she describes as “we”), and “tourists”, North Americans (or, worse, Europeans). She is precise in conjugating these pacified, modern-day tourist with the colonial suppressers of the past with the isolating moniker “you”, symbolic of her tethering of past abuse with present leisure. “Well, it’s because we, for as long as we have known you, were capital, like bales of cotton and sacks of sugar, and you were the commanding, cruel capitalists,” this illustrates not only Kincaid’s explicit division between outsiders and insiders but her dogmatic vision of the influence of “us”, North Americans (or, worse, Europeans).

She speaks to the reader as if in conversation at a dinner party back in New York; impassioned, unapologetic, communicating as fast as her words can clarify her thoughts and anger. Kincaid disseminates information in a dictatorial lecture revealing one of the book’s best qualities; her multifaceted, multi-disciplinary approach to understanding Antigua’s current condition. She utilizes history (using dates and names to punctuate the transcendence of colonial control), anthropology (referencing the semantic determinism of the colonial English language), politics and economics (to detail the corruption that has befallen her country post-colonization), folk story telling (to plant herself firmly in the camp of “insider”), as well as sociology, psychology and philosophy to ground and enrich her judgment.

Kincaid’s vitriol comes from a place so deeply human, so sincere that her utter hatred is not only palatable but at times beautiful. Her outrage comes from empathy, an uncontrollable yearning for the place and people she loves to become half-respectable under their own rule. Her indignation with Antigua’s enslaved history is countered by her struggle to find hope in its bleak contemporary state. Her personal struggle of observing Antigua’s collective struggle makes this book relatable to anyone who has cared a little too much for something that seems to never quite be all that it could.

“We” are certainly to blame for the problems of the past, but how much of the problems of the present are rooted in the past? This dilemma faces Kincaid throughout. Her target widens to include tycoons from the Middle East, modern-day colonizers through Globalization. Their stranglehold on the country and its politics perpetuates Kincaid’s rendering of the “real” Antiguan’s power struggle against outside forces. Despite her narrative point of view Kincaid is actually an “insider” living outside, residing in the United States. This separation exacerbates her feelings of helplessness but dissolves potential biases carried by true insiders, thus strengthening the power of her message.

The ever present tourists serve as a constant reminder of the affluence gained by whites on backs of black slaves. The visits of “outsiders” a continuation of the benefits reaped from a period the “insiders” cannot escape. Despite the potential for Jamaica Kincaid to close with dystopian exhaustion she instead comes full circle. The re-romantification of an ex-pat with her homeland, a place both her child and her parent, invokes one final human quality: devotion. Whether it’s pursued as an insider’s view of post-colonialism, observed as a literary triumph of one writer’s violence against the world, or understood through the emotions of facing inequality and wrestling your past, present and future A Small Place rewards on so many levels that it is not to missed by any reader.

March 14, 2011

For You Are a Tourist

by Parmis

A Small Place written by Jamaica Kincaid is an extensive essay which explores the history of an island unknown to many. As the title suggests, Antigua is a rather small island. It is situated in the West Indies and it’s population is just over 85,000. Antigua’s economy is based almost entirely upon tourism from North America. We North American’s specifically are known as “Tourists to the World” and before this book, I do not believe many of us considered this to be a bad thing.

Published in 1988, A Small Place provides a short and witty approach to a classical theme. As an immigrant herself, Kincaid provides a local historical perspective on Antigua which goes past that of factual evidence. This book is divided into four parts. The first shows the island of Antigua from the perspective of a tourist, an outsider. Just as first settlers onto a new island, we are new settlers into this book. Kincaid recognizes this, and provides an abundance of imagery as we embark on our journey of Antigua. As the book proceeds, instead of exploring Antigua through the triumphs of the island, we explore its very dark history of colonialism, slavery and corruption.

Kincaid is extremely aware of her audience, making this book an extremely interesting read. She is aware we are tackling this book from a North American mindset and plays to our strength and knowledge. North Americans are considered nosy, and as such Kincaid guides our thought process to exactly when one witnesses a new and unfamiliar society: “You look closely at the car; you see that it’s a model of a Japanese car that you might hesitate to buy; it’s a model that’s very expensive …” (7).

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March 14, 2011

Are you considered a gullible Tourist? Or an experienced World Traveler?

by jsimak

Antigua, an island nine miles wide by twelve miles long, a beautiful island, an island whose beauty seems unreal, a place that one would want to consider visiting to escape the cramped concrete walls of a city. Antigua, whose natives that inhabit the island cannot stand a tourist from America, or worse, Europe.

The island of Antigua, a place one would give a second thought to visiting after reading Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place.  This short eighty-four page mixed narrative expresses not only Kincaid’s view of Antigua from her personal point of view, but also through a brief second person narrative; similar to a travel editorial guiding the reader through the sights and experiences as they step off the plane into Antigua and set off into the city.

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March 14, 2011

A small place

by janeO

A Small Place 

JaneO.

A story with a great power to pull off the reader’s emotion, A Small Place is a book that tells the story of Antigua from its post-colonization state written by Jamaica Kincaid. It starts with discriminating tourists blaming the colonizers for its problems ranging from the effect of slavery, government corruption and poverty.

            It has a great power to discriminate tourists and add them to the blame. Kincaid points out to “a tourist [as] an ugly human being” (14). Pertaining to them as insensitive who doesn’t “thought of what it might be like for someone who had to live day in day out in a place that suffers constantly from drought, and so has to watch carefully every drop of fresh water “(4). It is a sad realization, but Kincaid has generalized it too much to blame every tourist especially “a North American or European-to be frank, white” (4). She is pointing her finger directly to “you”… [the reader the] “tourist” (17).

            I believe the world learns its lessons. Slavery and colonization is nowhere to be found but Kincaid wants to reveal her feelings. A feeling of anger “for not only [they] have suffer the unspeakableness of slavery, but the satisfaction to be had from “we made you bastards rich (10)” “. She even mentions the “bad minded English and all the bad-minded things they brought with them [to Antigua]” (41).

            She expresses her anger through personal view and experience.  Thus, her book reveals that it made her “angry … to hear people from North America tell how they love England” (31). Her outrageous emotions runs although out the book because “nothing can erase  …[her] rage-not an apology, not a large sum of money, not the death of the criminal-for [the events]… can never be made right” (32).

            Her power of drawing the readers with her emotions gives a lot of connection to us the readers or the tourist as she is expecting to draw attention to. Kincaid talks to the readers as if she was talking to the tourist by directly referring to them and using the word you to make a direct dialogue. The usage of vulgar and harsh words weighs her feelings and even adds gravity to the story.

A small place is a book that can trigger emotions whether to feel sympathy for the Antiguans or anger to the author for the overgeneralization of the blame. Nevertheless the book is an eye opener for some of the issues regarding slavery, government corruption and racism in Antigua.

            Furthermore, Kincaid acknowledges “Antigua [as a] beautiful [place]” (77) “where the sun always shines and where the climate is deliciously hot and dry” (4).

Word count: 444

March 14, 2011

Life and Death

by aaronbui103

Life and Debt is a 2001 American documentary film directed by Stephanie Black. The film examines the economic and social situation in Jamaica and how the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s lending policies impacted it. These loans soon plunge the country into a bigger debt which left them stranded without any resources to dig themselves out.

The film starts with the arrival of vacationers to the country. There were variety of food, music, and recreational activities available to these people. To the eye of the tourists, Jamaica is the place for vacation. Little did they know, Jamaica is in a great financial crisis that soon will jeopardize its economic growth and the country as a whole. When Jamaica turned to IMF for loans, it came with conditions. It could only spend a small percentage on health care and education. The country had to remove tariffs and limitations on imports and exports. Furthermore, their currency must be devalued. Due to these conditions, it had attracted many foreign companies to operate and sell in Jamaica. As a result, it drove out the Jamaican’s local agricultural market. Markets such as carrots, potatoes, milk, and bananas were seriously affected. Another section of the film covers the creation of “free trade zones” in Jamaica. Corporations were allowed to operate without paying any taxes and using the Jamaican labour force to their advantage.

Stephanie structures her film around a hypothetical Caribbean vacation that contrasts the lightened faces of the tourists in Jamaica with the gloomy reality of what is actually happening. She takes us through the hardship that the farmers had to face and then ends it with the “free trade zone,” a cruel labour system that the Jamaican had to endure. Showing us things may not be the way we see it.

March 14, 2011

Life and Debt

by sadafsalehi

The documentary on Life and Debt really portrays the views of what we see through a tourist vision and the people living in the country. It is portraying the standard lives of individual Jamaicans whose existence is determined by the U.S and other foreign economics. This well organized documentary opens and leads the viewers to the contrasting vision of tourists of Jamaica, Jamaican business owners, and the labourers. Stephanie Black endures her audience to see beyond the perimeter of the tourists’ areas, and to actually look behind the scenes of a place that seems so amazingly beautiful and relaxing; a place where tourist will be spending their stay at and the approaching entertainments. This document touches on how Jamaica is being pushed around by the US and other countries to meet their standards in order for them to make a living. The dark side of Jamaica really starts to shine once we take a deep look at the distressed financial system of Jamaica and how the Jamaican people are affected by it.

Stephanie Black’s purpose of this documentary is to set a vision on the situations that a “tourist” would normally miss when in a rural nation like Jamaica. The quote, “You’d be surprised to find out that every bite of food you eat comes off a plane from Miami”, which was also in the non-fiction book “A Small Place” – Jamaica Kincaid, really puts an effect on its viewers, and presumably leans toward the factor of Jamaicans labourers who are affected the most due to the standards of other nations. It is very heartbreaking when your own nation does not have the capability to sell products at a lower cost, but instead having to buy imports at a cheaper price due to Jamaican money being so devalued.

To many people this is not their first time watching a documentary, but what’s so different about Blacks documentary is how she compares and contrasts both views of Jamaica, the view of a tourist and the view of the working class. This profound technique really catches the audience’s attention and, in many ways, sends out a massage that we should always look beyond the image that is set and staged for us to see. Although the documentary is only based on a portion of Jamaica, an emotional person would find it very difficult to watch the entire documentary. In many of the scenes I personally found it difficult to view life in their perspective, especially when grown up in an industrial location. It was difficult comparing their lifestyle to mine, but defiantly changed my perspective of living standards. Overall I was amused by all the information that was given and found the documentary very interesting, but personally since I do not travel very often I would rather focus on other documentary’s which could be useful to me in the future. This is a perfect documentary to watch if you are interested to know more about the economical aspect of an area that you would desire to visit before becoming that ‘tourist’.

WC513