Snapshots of Childhood Life in Jamaica Kincaid's Fiction
BRENDA F. BERRIAN
Increasingly, books by English-speaking Caribbean women writers concerned with the female protagonist's recollection of childhood memories and her fight for self-independence within the context of close family relationships have been showing up in bookstores in North America, England, and the Caribbean. One writer-and one who has captured the admiration of well-established writers like Andrew Salkey, Derek Walcott, and Anne Tyler--is Jamaica Kincaid of Antigua. In 1983, Kincaid, then a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, published a collection of ten unusual short stories under the title of At the Bottom of the River, seven of which had previously appeared in The New Yorker. Two years later, Kincaid's first novel, Annie John ( 1985), one of the three finalists for the 1985 international Ritz Paris Hemingway Award, appeared and became the first novel published by an Antiguan woman.
Upon reading At the Bottom of the River, one realizes that the terminology "short stories" needs to be replaced with words like prose poems or poetic vignettes. Kincaid serves up slices of life that are surrealistic images or abstract snapshots of introspective dreamlike cogitations. Demonstrating an uncommon descriptive style of writing, each of the ten stories is like an individual snapshot frozen in place and left to be inspected as a detailed record of a pleasant or an unpleasant moment. Kincaid's ability to pull one into her world of haunting beauty as well as painful legacies of colonialism into photographs from one book to another provides the structure of this paper. Also, Kincaid's preoccupation with the female rite of passage cast against the imposed sociopolitical barriers that inhibit a Caribbean female from being a first-class citizen is