Jamaica Kincaid, an Antiguan native, writes this short, powerful and eye opening book which will catch many readers after the first line. The vivid, corrupt and intriguing language set out early in the book is very capturing for the majority of readers. A Small Place can draw in readers for many reasons, but there were primarily two reasons for me. The first reason was that A Small Place is a slim and exciting read which was done in one sitting. The second and main reason was that Kincaid directs the book to YOU as the reader forcing you to think deeply and question yourself. Kincaid brings forth this book centrally based on colonialism and tourism showing how she suffered going through difficult times and how others deal with tourism. The book is structured into four sections each portraying different issues and information which can be offensive and rude to some readers as the book is very one sided and degrades tourists. The common and strong use of “you” is what makes this book a must read; especially if one travels a lot. It gives the reader a new perspective on how some locals view tourists; views which may have never been thought of before. Kincaid makes it obvious that most tourists are looked at differently and are laughed at by some locals. Antiguans for example, are illustrated to show hate and disgust towards tourists and see them “as a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that.”This is because Antiguans themselves cannot “go away” on vacation like the tourists they see and escape their own reality. Kincaid’s strong, creative, but honest writing shows the truth on how locals feel towards tourism. This is possible because Kincaid is an Antiguan native who can share from her own past experience of colonialism and tourism. In general, A Small Place brings awareness of tourism and colonialism to each and every reader who picks up this book. It is a definite eye opener to many unseen perspectives and views which will cause you to think next time you’re on vacation among the natives.
“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.
In Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place, the author takes her reader on an unexpected and thought-provoking journey to the place where she grew up. Antigua is a small island in the Caribbean, formerly of British rule, that is now a popular tourist destination. The book is split into four untitled sections. The first section uses the second person point-of-view, and starts out, “if you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see” (3). It goes on to describe the experiences a tourist might have upon arriving in Antigua. Presumptuous and provocative, Kincaid’s narrative intertwines the typical sights and feelings a tourist might experience with facts that only an Antiguan native could know, she states, “you must not wonder what exactly happened to the contents of you lavatory when you flush it…it might end in the water you are thinking of taking a swim in” (13-14). Kincaid paints a fairly unattractive image of tourists in general that leaves the reader feeling uncomfortable and defensive. In the second section, Kincaid uses her personal experiences in the colonial Antigua to examine the impact slavery and British colonialism have had on her nation and her childhood. She highlights the blatant racism, discrimination and enforced cultural conformity that she experienced growing up in a small country that belonged to a huge empire. Thirdly, Kincaid reports on the corruption and crime that blatantly exist within the post-independence government and the resulting neglect to the public, such as the public library for which repairs had been pending for many years. Kincaid’s final chapter is a curious contrast to the rest of the book. It describes the unreal physical beauty of the island as seeming, “as if it were stage sets for a play” (77). She finds the beauty that attracts so many Americans and Europeans to Antigua to be a mixed blessing for the Antiguans themselves because it also serves as, “a prison” that traps in its residents in a world of inescapable poverty while trapping out all the developments of the outside world (79).