A Small Place

A Small Place

by Jamaica Kincaid

Paperback(First Edition)

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A brilliant look at colonialism and its effects in Antigua--by the author of Annie John

"If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V. C. Bird International Airport. Vere Cornwall (V. C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. You may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him--why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument. You are a tourist and you have not yet seen . . ."

So begins Jamaica Kincaid's expansive essay, which shows us what we have not yet seen of the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up.

Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright by turns, in a Swiftian mode, A Small Place cannot help but amplify our vision of one small place and all that it signifies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780374527075
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 04/28/2000
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 96
Sales rank: 48,476
Product dimensions: 5.46(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. Johns, Antigua. Her books include At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, and My Brother (all published by FSG). She lives with her family in Vermont.

Read an Excerpt

If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see. If you come by aeroplane, you will land at the V. C. Bird International Airport. Were Cornwall (V. C.) Bird is the Prime Minister of Antigua. you may be the sort of tourist who would wonder why a Prime Minister would want an airport named after him—why not a school, why not a hospital, why not some great public monument? You are a tourist and you have not yet seen a public monument in Antigua. As your plane descends to land, you might say, What a beautiful island Antigua is—more beautiful than any of the other islands you have seen, and they were very beautiful, in their way, but they were much too green, much too lush with vegetation, which indicated to you, the tourist, that they got quite a bit of rainfall, and rain is the very thing that you, just now, do not want, for you are thinking of the hard and cold and dark and long days you spent working in North America (or, worse, Europe), earning some money so that you could stay in this place (Antigua) where the sun always shines and where the climate is deliciously hot and dry for the four to ten days you are going to be staying there; and since you are on your holiday, since you are a tourist, the thought of what it might be like for someone who had to live day in, day our in a place that suffers constantly from drought, and so has to watch carefully every drop of fresh water used (while at the same time surrounded by a sea and an ocean—the Caribbean Sea on one side, the Atlantic Ocean on the other), must never cross your mind.

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A Small Place (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Small Place is a very simple-written book. With a fascinating setting in Antigua is the story of the extraordinary conditions of the life of the people of Antigua. Jamaica Kincaid's writing portrays not only her bitterness with the legacies of slavery but also her disappointment with the new Antigua, especially the loss of social values and the corruption plaguing the political life and those higher up in society. And she brought it out so succinctly and poignantly that this book clearly articulates the crisis plaguing developing nations, especially Africa that though independent, still have not yet shaken off the negative legacies of colonialism.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This books was a good read and narrated by a very vivacious and truthful person. Her opinions are interesting and her explanation of the state of the nation of Antigua is very insightful. It was a very compelling read and is well worth the money. The Nook book is formatted very well and is easy to read.
songofthestars91 More than 1 year ago
Jamaica Kincaid knows how to make a strong argument. Her words are poetic, her voice is passionate. There is something truly mesmerizing about this book.
kidzdoc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The setting for [A Small Place], which was written in 1988, is postcolonial Antigua in the mid-1980s, as the narrator speaks to a voiceless North American or European tourist who arrives to her home island of Antigua, "a small place, nine miles wide by twelve miles long", whose beauty is contrasted by its dilapidated buildings and bad roads. The tourist is given an unsparing view of the island's inequality, poverty and corruption, and much of the blame for Antigua's situation is laid on the former British colonists, and indirectly on the unwanted and unloved visitor. The essay ends with a brief love note by the narrator to her homeland, and we are left with a sense of hope for the future.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this extended essay, Jamaica Kincaid describes her native Antigua in many voices. The first portion is written more or less in the second person describing what "you" (the visitor to Antigua) will see. It is very clear that the author has little affection for the British who ruled the country and Anglicized it. She has little love for the foreigners (Middle Easterners) who have economic interests in the country. She's not thrilled with the corruption in the government. This essay is full of anger for the way that the Antiguans (descendants of slaves brought to the island) have been treated by cultures who have come into contact with them. However, we do learn a great deal about life in Antigua. As a librarian, I particularly enjoyed the portion of the essay dealing with the library which ten years after "The Quake" still had a sign saying "Repairs are pending." A Small Place is a small book and is worth reading for those planning to visit the country or who just want to know more about Antigua and its people.
mjmbecky on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazingly insightful about Antigua and the problems they face as a tourist island, replete with postcolonialism, poverty, and rampant corruption in the government. Kincaid doesn't necessarily offer solutions, other than in pointing out the problems she sees (that could be applied to most cultures & countries that are visited by non-stop tourists). You get a definite sense of her love for Antigua, but also her anguish over its perceived issues. Great and insightful read.
charbutton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Small Place is a frank and often scathing collection of essays that analyse the impact of British rule, American influence and tourism on the island of Antigua, Jamaica Kincaid's birthplace.The first essay is addressed directly to those who visit the island for a holiday. It's sarcastic and has a sly wit, talking directly to the tourist, reassuring them that it's OK if you don't think too deeply about the problems you can see in Antigua, you're on holiday after all. Through this conversational reassurance, she shines a light on the social and political issues of the island, the continuing neagtive impact of colonialism and the ineptitudes of the governments that have followed the granting of self-rule - exactly the things that a thoughful visitor should take notice of. It's a clever way of making this white British reader laugh at the studipity of other Western travellers who don't notice the reality behind the facade of a sun-drenched paradise, but then fill me with guilt that although I think I'm a responsible, politically-conscious backpacker I probably look exactly these ignorant travellers to the people whose country I'm visiting.Kincaid then goes on to write about the Antigua she grew up in, with its streets named after English 'maritime criminals' such as Horatio Nelson and the branch of Barclays Bank (founded by slave-traders), and the casual racism and cultural oppression of the British - making Queen Victoria's birthday an official holiday, for example. But she isn't afraid of criticising her fellow country people: 'We didn't say to ourselves, Hasn't this extremely unappealing person been dead for years and years? Instead, we were happy for a holiday.'In the third essay, Kincaid sharpens this focus on the Antiguans themselves, asking 'Is the Antigua I see before me, self-ruled, a worse place than when it was dominated by the bad-minded English?'. She uses the image of her local library, damaged in an earthquake in 1974 and still left unrepaired at the time of writing in 1988, as a symbol of the political indifference and wekaness.A Small Place was an uncomfortable read - exactly what Kincaid must have set out to achieve - but it isn't preachy or boring. It's the kind of book that a large part of the British and American populations (especially politicians) should be made to read.
cinesnail88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first one of the year is a nice little short essay of sorts on Kincaid's homeland of Antigua. This book was the first I have read by Kincaid, but I also have her book My Brother that I am sure to get around to soon. I found this little essay far from surprising in its content - corruption in many recently independent governments is nothing new - but I admire the woman's voice and look forward to experiencing it soon. I know I need to read Annie John, but I have not yet found the time to procure it yet.
White_Poppy More than 1 year ago
Disturbingly, my daughter was given this to read for her 11th grade English composition class. It is a short book that uses second person narrative to transmit a powerful emotion- hate. Kincaid hates Antigua's colonial past and it's present corrupt government (written in the 1980s). She hates it's plantation history, maintained by slaves, and it's present tourist industry, maintained by servants. She makes many good points about these issues but by using the second person point of view she makes her attacks very personal - you the reader are responsible. You the reader are especially hated if you are white. If you are English she claims you hate your country and English people, and that Antiguans despise you - finding you ugly, pitiful and ill mannered. She asserts that English people should walk around in sackcloth and ashes to repent their sins. Although the book provides many "facts" Kincaid does not supply evidence to support them. She fails to take into account the history of British working class people. True the white elite may have benefited from slavery but it was the taxes of working people that were used to pay the elite 200 million pounds when slavery was ended to compensate them for their loss. It is the poor working people, who had no vote, who worked in terrible conditions in mines and factories, that helped make the elite rich. If you were unlucky enough to be put in a workhouse, adult or child, you worked without pay and often died as the result of industrial injury or malnutrition. The seas around Antigua contain not only the bodies of slaves, but those of the white soldiers and servants, and not forgetting those of the indigenous islanders who were wiped out. Kincaid's heart felt, if hateful words, would be more palatable if she still lived in Antigua and was working to make her country a better place. Instead she has lived most of her life in America and had this book published with the help of The John Simon Guggenheim Foundation - whose vast fortune was made in mining and smelting...
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