A visiting grad student interviewing me for her thesis (which is focussed on Antiguan and Barbudan writing) put me on the spot yesterday, asking me to name my favourite Antiguan author (not the only impossible question she asked). Althea Prince (with books like How the East Pond Got Its Flowers which did such a good job of sharing aspects of our history and imprinting certain values in a child friendly way by just telling a good story, Loving this Man, Being Black and the Politics of Black Women’s Hair) was in there; Gisele Isaac (with her taboo breaking Considering Venus was in there)…she asked me what about Joy Lawrence and I noted that her work documenting especially Antiguan expression in The Way We Talk and Other Antiguan Folkways had served me as a teaching aid in my Communications classes when exploring, well, the ways we talk…and that got me thinking about her research into island folk history which led me to the book that laid the foundation within that post slavery folk memory genre in terms of the Antiguan and Barbudan literary canon and isrequired reading because of it in my view if you want to understand the Antiguan, and especially the African-Antiguan, Smith and Smith’s To Shoot Hard Labour…I may have mentioned that the first writers I was exposed to, enjoyed and learned from were the calypso writers, which would put Shelly Tobitt (the pen behind so many of my favourite calypsos) easily at the top of my list of favourite Antiguan writers…but in the end I went with the writings of our most renowned international literary celebrity Jamaica Kincaid because of the boldness of her writing, the way her stories though rooted in the particular are universal and timeless as a result, the poetry and layers of meaning in each of her lines, and because of memorable works like Annie John, Lucy, and for lifting the lid off of a taboo much like Isaac’s book My Brother (yes, we discussed A Small Place too…everyone who wants to discuss Kincaid wants to discuss A Small Place, right?). But perhaps most significantly because I think when I discovered Annie John (a first since I would not have known there was such a thing as an Antiguan novelist before much less one breaking through at her level), I would have been able to begin to admit, if only to myself (it would be a while more before I could say it out loud), that this was what I wanted to do and maybe with hard work, persistence, and talent, it could be so. Maybe. Even for a then teenage girl from the working class community of Ottos, Antigua who’d been writing for a while and knew she wanted to keep writing but didn’t know what to make of this wish that didn’t fit the reality of her world, much less how to make it her reality.
And so I come to Kincaid’s latest book. It’s See Now Then. No, I haven’t read it yet (yet!). But here’s what Publishers’ Weekly had to say:
“In her first novel in a decade, Kincaid (Autobiography of My Mother) brings her singular lyricism and beautifully recursive tendencies to the inner life of Mrs. Sweet, who is facing the end of her marriage, and who, over the course of the book, considers the distinctions between her nows and her thens, particularly when recounting what was while the memories bleed with a pain that still is. Particularly touching is Kincaid’s rendering of motherhood. The immediacy of Mrs. Sweet’s small son’s toys—Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers—creates a significant foil to the ethereal interior echoes. Such is the reality of parenting…” Read More.
We have more on Kincaid on this site as well, if you want to check some of that out:
Still, hate having to pick a single favourite of almost anything, though. So don’t ask me what happened when she asked about my favourite books and authors in general. I think in the end I told her to read the blog.
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