Jamaica Kincaid takes on a bold tone in her short book, A Small Place. She dismembers the stereotypical view of Antigua as a delightful tourist destination exposes the flaws of its reality. She gets her ideas across using repetition and a unique narrative that seems to makes Antigua’s problems personal.
Born as Elaine Richardson in St. John’s, Antigua, Jamaica Kincaid changed her name, as her family did not approve of her writing. Possible reasons for disapproval can be perceived when reading her essay titled A Small Place. Simple and divided into four parts, Kincaid portrays precisely her thoughts on New Antigua and her resentment of its past.
Puzzling to allocate such a book into a specific category, Kincaid begins her bitter narration assuming that readers are tourists in this small exotic island of Antigua. As the first section is read, you take the role of perhaps an ignorant visitor traveling for a short time by reason of getting away from your developed land and habitual lifestyle. Presumed that your short stay would be without worry and brimming with pleasure, the living conditions of locals “must never cross your mind” (Kincaid, 4). Following a conceivably satirical opening, Kincaid then recalls Antigua and its occupation by Great Britain. Irritated with the English culture and legacy of slavery at the time, she finds that the oppression of the past continues to corrupt Antiguans in the present. Moving her focus back to present day, Kincaid then analyzes further the dishonesty of those in power such as the re-building of an old library not motivated by the desire to aid but rather to remember previous forms of ruling. She continues to criticize Antiguan authorities as well as articulating the fears inhabitants have of the future.
I strongly recommend the book A Small Place to any potential tourists; and since, as Jamaica Kincaid herself points out, “every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere” this book is a must read for everyone (18). Kincaid’s book highlighting Antigua, from a tourist and a native point of view, is enlightening. However, readers must be prepared to find anger, unfortunate truths, and accusations directed toward themselves between the covers.
The tone is angry. As the editor of The New Yorker put it, A Small Place “was very angry. Not badly written. Angry.” (qtd by Bouson 93). This is why Kincaid’s essays—originally intended to be published in the New Yorker where she was a staff writer—were published into a separate book instead of a magazine. However, the book’s anger is necessary; there is no other way to express the wrong-doings of so many on the natives of Antigua. Kincaid and this book are angry, and they have every right to be.