Every Friday I will be recommending a work of fiction or non-fiction written by a woman who has influenced and shaped my intersectional feminist perspective, with special emphasis on women of colour, women in translation, LGBTQIA women and women of different religions.
When I studied English Literature at university I was very privileged to have the option of studying Jamaica Kincaid as part of a special author course along with Jean Rhys. Although I didn’t have much – if any – knowledge of Kincaid’s work prior to starting the course, I instantly fell in love with her depiction of small island life. Born and raised in Antigua, one of the smaller Caribbean islands, Kincaid had to write under a pseudonym in case anyone she knew saw themselves in any of her characters, which mirrored much of what she saw growing up. What I love most about Jamaica Kincaid is her eclectic tastes. She can write impeccable fiction, short stories and letters. She can also write fascinating travel-writing and I would strongly recommend Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himilayas.
Girl is a very short story – only a few pages long. It consists of one long sentence from a mother imparting advice (and admonishments) onto her young daughter about growing up to be a respectable woman in the community. Representing the relationship between mother and daughter, Kincaid highlights the behaviours and norms that women are proscribed from a young age. Despite its length, Girl confronts issues of female sexuality and domesticity and, through its repetitiveness, creates a claustrophobic and limited existence for this young girl which will continue into adolescence and adulthood. All in all, a very bleak outlook on the future of a small island girl.
You can find a PDF version of Girl here.
Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John’s, Antigua and now lives in America working as Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard. She has published numerous works of fiction with her most recent, See Now Then, being published in 2013. She has also written a selection of short stories and non-fiction works.