Hello readers! It has been about a month since I have written anything for this Pop Culture Primer, because the I just ended a semester of graduate school and started a new job with quite the rigorous training schedule. But have no fear, I am back in business and I would like to talk to you about a great book that I read in my Caribbean Literature class.
A Small Place is a fascinating text by a fascinating author, who comes from a fascinating background. Its all quite fascinating, if that was not clear enough. Jamaica Kincaid is a writer born in Antigua in the Caribbean, which is also referred to as the West Indies by many Caribbean writers and Post-Colonial Literary Theorists. The West Indies is an interesting source of literature because these writers are developing their own narrative forms and devices. The islands/countries in the Caribbean were, and in some way still are, under some form of colonial control. This background hangs over the texts that we read in the class like a Lovecraftian Old One, and informs the content of A Small Place, which is great but not what I want to talk about today.
What I would like to highlight about this text is its presentation. If you notice, I have been referring to A Small Place in broad terms, like text and book, because its presentation makes it difficult to classify. Kincaid’s book is short, the edition I own clocks in at 87 pages, but it is not a novella, because it is not a traditional narrative. The majority of the written text is in second person address, meaning it directly speaks to the reader. It tells the reader that they are a tourist traveling to Antigua, then proceeds to provoke the reader/tourist with a brilliant blend of antagonism and sardonic prodding. Though it largely concerns the tourism industry’s fabrication of Antigua vs the reality of Antigua as experience by the natives, this book is not completely a satire or indictment of travel guides. It is not quite a memoir either, despite Kincaid using much of her life and experiences to flesh out the representation of Antigua.
The 2nd person address that makes up most of the book does not allow the reader to get absorbed into the text, as it constantly confronts them with their perceptions of Antigua and other tourism dominated islands in the Caribbean. The reader has to engage with the work and decide how they will respond to it. It is one of the most fascinating and rewarding reading/interactive experiences I have had.
I do not want to spoil too much because I think everyone should read this book unspoiled, so I will cut this one a bit short. A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid, is a brilliant text that is aggressive, antagonistic, darkly hilarious, and justifiably angry, and you owe it to yourself to read it.