March 14, 2011
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
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’.
March 9, 2011
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
Jamaica Kincaid’s’ A Small Place is a very personal piece of writing. Not only does it relate the author’s personal experiences and opinions of her birthplace, the island of Antigua, but it is also written as a very personal attack on the life and values of me, the hapless reader. This short book starts by stereotyping, generalizing, and admonishing me as a member of a moderately wealthy, white, Euro-American tourist populous. “A tourist is an ugly human being.” (14) The five pages following this statement outline how, based on the assumed motivations for my recreational travels, I live a clichéd existence of mediocrity punctuated by the luxury of vacations that I see as necessary to escape the banality of my own life. Once arriving at my vacation spot of choice, I attempt to fit in to, or at least appreciate the quaintness of the lives led there, all the while looking like a fool to the locals. The book continues with contemptuous writing of the same ilk, making claims about the ideals and perceptions of the reader especially with regard to the extensive corruption in the government around the time of publication (1988) – which caused hardships for the common residents – juxtaposed with the lives of foreigners and the remnants of colonial rule. The effectiveness of this piece of writing comes in large part from the cunningness of the sarcastic prose. Its stream-of-consciousness format incorporates arguments, examples, accusations and rebuttals in one long thought, all before you can manage to take issue with the premise of the statement or begin to clarify a response. The author makes liberal use of the parenthesis, in both the left and right varieties. Perhaps the more profound observation to be made about this book is that every accusation, every stereotype has some sort of truth to it, at least for this reader. I am moderately wealthy and white. I have been that tourist feeling slightly uncomfortable in a culture slightly different from my own. I am of English descent and feel a sense of connection to (even romanticism about) the glory of the English Empire at its height, despite never having lived in the country. Is this the effect on me of the Anglo-glorifying version of history described on pages 30 and 31 of the book? I wonder if this essay has as striking an effect on someone who doesn’t fit the stereotypes of the reader as well as I do. Would someone who isn’t white, or who wasn’t raised to feel some sense of loyalty to the Crown react as strongly to the accusations of evil on the part of colonizers? Would they be more able, “to accept that [the corruption in modern Antigua] is mostly [their] fault?” (35) The strength of this book relies on the reader identifying with the “you” to whom the book is addressed. That being said, its provocative tone and theses will lead to a compelling read for anyone.
January 31, 2011
After reading Meredith Quartermain’s collection of nanofiction from The Not Of What She Didn’t Know, I was really confused. But after reading it several more times, I finally understood the themes in these nanofictions. Quartermain successfully creates pieces that are intriguing and entertaining. The different pieces in this collection cover many different themes, such as power struggles, conflicts and relationships. Although Quartermain explores different ideas and themes in each nanofiction, there are also similarities between the pieces. For example, the characters in all the pieces are never explicitly introduced. In “Hotel Narrative”, not only are the characters not formally introduced, but the number of characters in that piece is not even clearly established.
Although many of her nanofictions are equally interesting, I found “L’amante anglaise” to be my favourite out of the entire collection. In “L’amante anglaise”, the plot is fairly straightforward, but the implications behind the text are rather intriguing. Although this piece is confusing at first glance, especially with all the French terms, but once the theme is made clear, this nanofiction can be very entertaining. In this nanofiction, the author does not formally introduce the characters but essentially there are two female characters having a conversation, which turns into an argument, but reconciles at the end.
Being a Canadian writer, Meredith Quartermain expresses the theme of Nationalism in Canada with this short nanofiction. For example, Quartermain interweaves English and French words throughout her piece to depict the bilingualism in Canada. Quartermain also illustrates the struggles between the French and English speaking communities in early Canadian history by the conversation and the argument the two characters are having.
The first time I read this nanofiction I was very confused because I was unfamiliar with French. With all the French words infused into the piece, I had no choice but to look up the foreign vocabularies. Without a doubt, this step was very time consuming. But on hindsight, the definitions of the French words are not of importance. What intrigues me is how Quartermain expresses Nationalism by combining English and French to create an overall effect of unity that mirrors Canada’s history. For a fact, “L’amante anglaise” is a very entertaining piece of writing. With the alternating English and French words, it easily grabs the reader’s attention.
“L’amante anglaise” can be a hard piece to indulge in with just one reading. But after grasping the main theme, it is easy to enjoy and appreciate Quartermain’s attempt to add unique twists in her writing.