Thursday, August 6, 2009
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
Like many of you, I have been a tourist in different places. Jamaica Kincaid begins her book by describing how a tourist looks at the new place he or she has discovered. Jamaica Kincaid seems so right about tourists. I tend to wear ear stoppers and rose colored glasses. This is to keep myself from sights that might make my heart bleed and my eyes to cry. When I am a tourist, I don't want to think about the cleanliness of the water in the swimming pool or ocean. I don't want to think about the life of the waiter or waitress after they serve me and go home. Is their home a cardboard box? What is their health like? Do they receive proper health care? Do their children go to school? No, I don't want to know. This is my moment in the sun. God forbid if anybody drives a cab somewhere to show me real life.
In "A Small Place," Jamaica kincaid writes about the 1974 earthquake that smashed and destroyed parts of Antigua. For example, the public library was badly destroyed. After twelve years there was still a sign on the library. On the sign these words are written the library is going to be repaired. The repairs are pending. Twelve years later the library remained unoccupied and remained in the same shape.
I applaud Jamaica Kincaid for honesty. She doesn't strive to make Antigua, her birthplace, a place like a fantasyland. She seems to be saying the tourists don't know the "real" people or the "real" island when they visit for their vacations.
After she writes from the viewpoint of a tourist, Jamaica Kincaid writes on a personal level. She can tell us the truth about Antigua because this place is her home. She talks about what it was like living under British rule. she talks about corrupt politicians.
Also, she talks about the beauty of the island. "Antigua is too beautiful. Sometimes the beauty of it seems unreal....for no real sunset could look like that; no real seawater could strike that many shades of blue at once; making everything seem thick and deep and bottomless." About one place, Antigua, Jamaica Kincaid snapped my heart back and forth like rubber.