Posts tagged ‘a small place’

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 13, 2011

One Informative Thorn of a Book

by alexguerrero92

I hate being the tourist. I hate being called a tourist, even when visiting foreign countries. And I know I’m not alone on this, especially after having to endure a barrage of ego-bruising insults on the very first chapter of Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place. How bad is it? Well, let’s put it this way. Unless you enjoy being repeatedly referred to as “you, the tourist”, you probably won’t be too pleased. It may seem a little harsh and critical, but only in the end will you truly understand what message Jamaica is trying to convey. However guilt-tripping that message may be.

It’s no use getting angry at books. Arguing with them will only make you look crazy. Yet, one can’t help but give off a few “Excuse me?”s and “Well, I say! That was highly unnecessary!”s. I won’t blame you. Virtually, the entire first chapter is about drawing you, the reader (see what I did there?), out of your comfort zone and into a boiling pot of water. In this case, putting you into the shoes of a pasty-faced portly sub-species of human called “the tourist”, and shunning you on your travels through poverty-stricken Antigua. Don’t like it? Well, suck it up, princess! You’re being shunned for a reason! For outside those fancy hotel resort walls is an entire country victimized by the negligence of its corrupt government; its people so poor, they can only dream about going on any sort of vacation. But that’s only the first chapter. The rest speaks of the plight of the people, shedding some light onto a world that seriously differs from ours. The book isn’t easy to digest, especially if you’ve gone on a fancy vacation to a resort in a country like Antigua. How can you even consider going to Antigua after being exposed to the hardships the people suffer through day by day? But the book in a whole isn’t a pain to read. In fact, it contains brilliant imagery and colour as well as a style sure to dig deep into your very soul, burning into you a kind of realization and appreciation for your own way of life.

A Small Place is like a plane ride. Throughout the flight you get nauseating turbulence, bland food, and cranky flight attendants, but only in the end when you land will it all be worth it. It isn’t necessarily an agreeable book, and will most likely have you shaking your head than nodding, but all of it is done for a reason. The “shock and awe” approach is clearly effective, and Jamaica displays a lack of reluctance when pushing the boundaries. Like the ghost of Christmas future, it shows you the unpleasant things in order to change your perception of the world, and can possibly change your actions. I recommend this book to young adults and anyone planning on travelling to an exotic country.

496 words

March 13, 2011

A Small Place with a Big Message

by blairesmith

Through A Small Place, a poetic 81-page memoir, Jamaica Kincaid announces her strong opinions of tourism, corruption, and racism. Often, her stance on an issue is so strong that the reader feels no other option but to agree with her. Kincaid’s passion for her birthplace of Antigua is very apparent through her descriptions of suffering such as, “They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives” (19). It is Kincaid’s passion that makes the book such a thought-provoking read.

The setting of the book is Antigua, Kincaid’s birthplace, a former British colony that gained independence in 1981. The author does not hesitate to blame British colonization and other developed countries for the problems occurring in Antigua today. She makes her feelings about some areas in particular very clear, “North America (or, worse, Europe)” (4). She goes on to refer to tourists from these countries as, “An ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that” (17). She blames colonization and tourists for much of the hardship Antigua faces. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but either way Kincaid does call some serious issues into play. One of the first introduced is water shortage, “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 used” (4). Another is medical care, “If any one of the ministers in government needs medical care he flies to New York to get it” (8).

These issues are legitimate, but how the book is viewed will affect the messages that the reader takes away with them. If the book is looked upon as poetic and not as a series of essays Kincaid’s messages become much more effective. As a poem the book generates strong emotions. Readers may feel insulted with Kincaid’s accusations of tourists, or possibly feel sympathetic for the people of Antigua. Depending on the values of the reader, different feelings will occur, but an emotional reaction is guaranteed. If, on the other hand, the chapters are looked at as essays the reader will be greatly disappointed. Fallacies fill the pages, but one committed quite often is broad generalization. For example, Kincaid suggests that all tourists are alike by saying, “There must have been some good people among you, but they stayed home” (35).

Through A Small Place, Kincaid’s goal is to create awareness of the hardships such as slavery and corruption that Antiguan society has faced. Due to her passion, I believe she succeeds in this and does more. It would not be surprising if readers felt an obligation to avoid visiting Antigua as a destination spot, which Kincaid would be very happy about. Tourism in itself is not a bad thing, but I think the world needs more books like A Small Place to lift the curtain off the “behind the scenes” of a country. The book also sends a great message of what should really be important to us. Should we, as middle/upper class, be thinking about our beach holiday or the injustice, poverty, and corruption that developing nations face on a daily basis?

Word Count: 535

Works Cited

Kincaid, Jamaica. A Small Place. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1988. Print.

March 9, 2011

A Reality Check

by aliwhitee

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place examines the history of Antigua through the eyes of someone who has lived through and experienced the oppression and frustrations felt by many Antiguans. Her raw and harsh portrayal of the contrast between the tourists and the locals places a feeling of guilt within the reader, who has more than likely been a tourist themselves. Kincaid opens the book with an emotion-evoking chapter on the view of the native Antiguan to the tourist, who she narrows down to mostly white Europeans or Americans. Her direct and potent insults illustrate her hatred towards tourists, referring to them as, “An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, and ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that…” (17). Kincaid then goes on to show her detestation for Britain who was responsible for the colonization of Antigua, and her bitterness with the legacies of slavery that took place on this small island. She directly blames the British for the complete devastation of her country and asserts that, “no natural disaster imaginable could equal the harm that they did.” (23-24)

Kincaid’s writing portrays her disappointment with the new, “free” Antigua, especially the loss of social values and the corruption that plagued the government and those higher up in society. She also references the library several times in the book, which was damaged in the 1974 earthquake, to demonstrate Antigua’s problems, repairs to which are also “pending.” (42) Although the library was a British colonial building, Kincaid refers to it with a sentimental view, plaintive about the loss of books and location of the building. Overall, Kincaid’s opinionated writing outlines Antigua’s destroyed culture and society; the few rich Antiguans on the island will not fund reparations of the old library, and therefore will not aid in the repair of the nation as whole. A Small Place is a very simple-written book, but has a lasting impact on the reader that is somewhat of a reality check. With such a beautiful setting, tourists are often led to believe a place like Antigua is paradise. This book articulates the crisis plaguing many developing nations that although independent, still have not yet shaken off the negative legacies of colonialism. Although Antigua is a small pace, as referred to several times, huge events with life-changing impacts on its citizens have occurred. Moreover, this is a highly recommendable read to all who want their eyes opened to the realities of the world’s suffering nations.




March 9, 2011

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.

March 9, 2011

A Small Book With A Big Voice.

by karmill

The book, A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid, is difficult to categorize as a single genre. It could be considered an autobiography, yet could also be considered as History, Political, Travel, Opinion or general Non-Fiction. The book is an expression of the author’s opinions about her experiences as a child growing up on the British colonized island of Antigua, and her views on tourism, government, slavery, racism and unions. Throughout the text, Kincaid expresses her anger that, through no fault of its own, Antigua is no longer what it once was. She states that this is due to many factors, and discusses the Antigua that she knew as a child is not as it was because the ones who ran it, the British as colonizers, no longer run it. She also stresses that prior to her history, Antigua was affected by the European slave trade, the white man’s education system which ignored local custom, history and culture and taught only all things British.
Kincaid uses second person narrative in this book, which makes her statements and comments very direct and blunt to the reader. From the beginning, she uses the word you to address the reader, and begins as if one was a tourist arriving in Antigua. The narrative takes you, the tourist, from the plane through the town to the hotel, all the while projecting her opinions and thoughts onto you, the tourist, in a manner not very flattering. She continues this projection throughout the book, making you into the British rulers, corrupt governors, rich expatriates, all the time projecting her opinions onto each you character.
Kincaid introduces the subject of the formerly splendid, but now damaged library early in the book, explaining the damage from the Earthquake in 1974 and that repairs are pending. The library is used as a representation of everything wrong with how Antigua was treated, and is referenced several times during the book. She says that, as a tourist, you might think it part of the quaintness of the people, descended from slaves, and their unusual sense of time, and not to think of all the unpleasant history and struggles of these quaint people. The library is referred to again as a British colonial building, housing British culture, British values and especially British law. Kincaid then refers to the library nostalgically, lamenting the loss of the beauty, atmosphere, location by the ocean, and the wealth of books available. She mourns the fact that the collection from the old library is housed above a dry-goods store, with most of the books in dusty boxes, unavailable for use. Yet, the unkind expatriates with money will not provide the funds to repair the old library.
Kincaid refers to Antigua several times as a small place. For such a small place, many big events with huge repercussions happened there, and she defends the Antiguans with a very large voice. But, she is careful to point out that, in the end, we are all just human.

March 8, 2011

Calling All Tourists

by alessandranakhleh

“If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see” (1).  Read the first line of Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place and be ready to strap yourself in for a ride.  Antiguan native, Kincaid is a novelist, gardener, and former reporter for The New Yorker Magazine, while also a professor of literature.  In a memoir just under eighty-five pages Kincaid wastes no time, but cuts right into the meat of her beliefs.  After experiencing a rough childhood filled with discontent, Kincaid has developed strong feelings for people who choose to vacation in her motherland.  Splitting her essay into four sections allows Kincaid to dedicate each section to a specific aspect of Antigua, giving her reader a look into both the past and present.  Assuming her audience is either American or European, Kincaid talks to the reader as a tourist who is presumably well educated enough to be aware of Antiguan difficulties, but carefree enough to push aside such knowledge in order to enjoy a vacation.  Speaking as an Antiguan, Kincaid states the reasons why a native “does not like a tourist is not hard to explain” (18).  Kincaid draws attention to those tourists who try to blend in with locals, while never failing to “look silly”.  Reminding the reader that Antiguans were once British subjects, Kincaid addresses the imperfections of her homeland, the “desperation and depression” (18) of natives, the envy they feel watching tourists indulge in pleasure.  Written in such a way that the audience is being questioned, we, as readers are forced to look deeper into ourselves to interpret what Kincaid is preaching.  It is each reader’s duty to decide whether or not they choose to accept the challenge of looking beyond the physical beauty of a vacation spot to see the true harsh realities.  In order to dive into A Small Place, a reader must have an open mind – ready to appreciate Kincaid’s different points of view, and along with an open mind, readers must be equipped with a tough skin – not subject to get offended when being called an “ugly human being” (14).  By the end of the short book Kincaid has inevitably entered the conscience of her readers by directing them to an unpleasant side of tourism.  As a reader I enjoyed Kincaid’s style of writing, and I felt I was able to appreciate her views, although, I do not agree with all of her claims on tourists, as I have been one myself.  Kincaid forces us to examine the culture of tourism, to think twice about the places we visit, and the people who call it a home, while directly encouraging us to view it as a place much more complex than its physical beauty.  I would invite adults of all ages to indulge in Kincaid’s point of view, allowing her message to spread, intoxicating the population with a deeper respect and awareness for the natives of their next vacation spot.

March 8, 2011

A Big Bite for a Small Place

by chrislansigan

           Jamaica Kincaid, the author of “A Small Place”, knows how to really express her ideology down into a short novel. Her main point that she tends to draw out numerous times is that her beautiful home country of Antigua was simply ruined by foreign colonizers, whether it had to do with construction or living space or slavery. Opening up the book, Kincaid goes straight to the fact of how tourists act in Antigua, and are seen as the ‘unwanted’ people by the locals, and as she depicts at the end of the first section. “An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and that, and it will never occur to you that the people who inhabit the place in which you have just paused cannot stand you…” (pg. 17). This is essential, because it states how the narrator is going to communicate to the reader throughout the entire novel by repetitively being so negative towards the intended audience, which are clearly all the non-third world inhabitants of the world.

          Kincaid stresses on the fact that her country is powerless when it came to political issues, mostly because of the influence and corruption within the government. She is constantly attacking foreign influence throughout her piece, which can become somewhat bitter after a certain amount of her excessive thoughts cover page to page. I think that it is exceptional that she expresses her true feelings of what happened to her country in the past, but the constant biting at the tourists for just being a normal visitor is completely unnecessary and irrelevant. Summing up the three main figures that affected Antigua the most, Kincaid shoves in our faces that all that the people there were properly educated in were “how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take [my country’s] wealth…in Swiss bank accounts” (Pg. 34). She takes delight in reminding us how we used them to our own advantage, which works in her favour when proving her points.  

              Kincaid does not choose to write delicately; rather, she writes with explicit emotions and an obvious resentment and anger, not caring what her audience presumes when they read her book. This is admirable, but at the same time can brew much disagreement, because this trait divides her readers who take the time to sit down and open the novel, into the ones with respect for her truthfulness, and the ones that simply shake their heads at what they are looking at. Besides the invigorating assaults on the conscience mind, this book is worth picking up and reading through in one go, for you can learn a lot from this book about small beautiful places, and what really goes on behind the shiny, bare-laid beaches and hotels with the locals. But, if you enjoy the life of tourism, prepare for a frontline ambush and man the trenches, for you will need the firepower to keep a hold of this novel while reading it in a good mood.

March 8, 2011

A Small Place, A Big Problem

by aialungo

Jamaica Kincaid enlightens her readers about the truths in a place such as Antigua in the book A Small Place.  She approaches the reader as if he or she is or has been a tourist and illustrates how they may react to Antigua if they were coming for a visit.  She then relives Antigua when it was a colonial possession of Great Britain.  She discusses the events that took place during this time.  Kincaid then ventures into Antigua as it is now and explores whether or not it was in fact better as a possession of Great Britain’s.  She uses the library that is still not properly running and the education downfall for children as examples of how Antigua is not a better place now.  She then discusses how people in power abuse their privileges and shares such examples as drug smuggling and political violence.  She ends the novel with a look at Antiguans natural and physical beauty.

I found that although the narrator allows Antiguans to come across as good genuine people, many are offended of Kincaid’s view of tourists.  Chances are many if not all readers are tourists and Kincaid even talks to the reader assuming he or she is a tourist and this can come across as if she is talking down to the reader and making them seem like monsters who do not appreciate the native people or place they are visiting.  This is not always the case and Kincaid should not assume so.  The purpose of the book was to open the reader’s eyes to what goes on in Antigua and make them realize it is not a fun vacation spot alone.  Antigua has real issues and contains real people who could use help from us. This is not a subtle message.  Kincaid makes it obvious and almost intrusive. She gets her point across quickly.  Kincaid leaves the reader feeling almost guilty and without a doubt wanting to know more about Antigua.  Her feelings on the matter shine through in her writing and if a reader agrees with her than there may be good feelings about the novel, but, if the reader decides that Kincaid is only being cynical and pessimistic about Antiguans well being, they may find her to be offensive and therefore turned off by the novel all together.  Kincaid has great use of imagery so the reader is able too imagine Antigua and all the events in his or her head to get a full understanding of the area.  Kincaid’s language was overall interesting and easy to comprehend.  The layout was prefect and the print was easy to read.

Overall, the book is enlightening and an eye opener.  It may be controversial to few but it is lovely to most.  Kincaid is an awesome writer and her point is well represented.