Jamaica Kincaid on Femininity and Belonging

    Staying true to my New Year’s Resolution to diversify my bookshelf, I recently finished reading Antiguan-born Jamaica Kincaid’s The Autobiography of My Mother. Although this book had a slow start, Kincaid’s simple, precise language was sharply focused on the themes she chose to explore throughout this recollection of a 70-year-old Caribbean woman’s life. These themes include femininity, belonging, identity, colonialism, race relations in the Caribbean, and family relationships. Throughout the novel, we see the unnamed narrator come to terms with and “discover” her womanhood and sexuality by taking numerous lovers whom she refuses to love. The reader is also introduced to her white Scottish father who uses his position of power in the town and his racial privilege to exploit the oppressed native islanders. This abuse of power is watched by his daughter, who’s mother was a native islander herself. This overlap of races and the history of the island itself leaves the narrator torn with a broken identity. This reflection on one's life and the sorting of one's own feelings is perfectly accomplished through the author's clear, singular voice. 

     Overall, Kincaid weaves together an artistic masterpiece depicting one woman’s hard life coming of age in post-colonial Caribbean, and how her gender dictated many of her experiences. I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the complex themes told through simple narrative, and to anyone who might also be interested in diversifying their bookshelf in the new year! I know I will definitely be picking up more of Jamaica Kincaid's critically-acclaimed novels soon. 

Happy Reading!