Books by Jamaica Kincaid

PARTY by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: June 4, 2019

"Nostalgic Nancy Drew fans will likely deem this experimental picture book a failed homage, and it will certainly disappoint young sleuths in search of a real mystery. (Picture book. 5-8)"
Pam, Bess, and Bess' younger sister, Sue, visit a museum after hours for a celebration of the "publication of the first of the Nancy Drew mystery books" in this picture book based on a story originally published in 1980 in the New Yorker. Read full book review >
SEE NOW THEN by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: Feb. 5, 2013

"It's not a total success: Without the tether of a firm plot, all the time-folding makes the narrative feel static, an artful set of complaints. Yet Kincaid's audaciousness is winning. She's taken some much-needed whacks at the conventional domestic novel."
A recursive and beguiling tale of a collapsing marriage by the veteran Kincaid (The Autobiography of My Mother, 1996, etc.). Read full book review >
MR. POTTER by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: May 1, 2001

"Disappointingly, too labored and self-conscious to achieve its ends."
An ambitious but often sententious attempt to link the story of a tropical island Everyman to great events of the era. Read full book review >
TALK STORIES by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: Feb. 14, 2001

"Some readers may wish Kincaid had occasionally turned her sharp eye on high culture, just to counterbalance all the pop coverage, but her admirers (and those of the magazine) will find this an enjoyable diversion."
Now better known as a fiction writer, Kincaid (My Garden, 1999, etc.) here collects "Talk of the Town" pieces written for The New Yorker between 1978 and 1983, offering a witty, quirky look at life in the Big Apple as seen through the eyes of a young, hip woman. Read full book review >
MY GARDEN (BOOK) by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: Nov. 1, 1999

A quirky, entertaining, and richly emotional look at the inner life of one particularly introspective and perceptive gardener. Kincaid (My Brother: A Memoir, 1997; The Autobiography of My Mother, 1996; etc.), a native of Antigua transplanted to Vermont, says of her own garden, which resembles a map of the Caribbean, that it is an exercise in memory. Memories and history figure large here. The sight of a hollyhock, one of her favorite flowers, stirs unhappy childhood memories of harvesting cotton, its close relative, and leads her into a pain-filled discourse on history. Books and reading, too, are at the center of Kincaid's work: books about gardens and gardening and books on horticulture and botany, but most of all seed and plant catalogues, the gardeners' wish books. For Kincaid, the grimness of the long Vermont winter is eased by the joy of catalogues, especially the plain ones without color pictures and captions. One of the book's most memorable scenes is of Kincaid on a ten-below-zero day sitting in a tub of hot water eating oranges and reading Ronniger's Seed Potatoes catalogue. Her description of plant hunting in China, where she spent a month with other plant enthusiasts gathering seeds in remote areas, is both witty and poignant, and there are thoughtful visits to Monet's garden at Giverny and Vita Sackville-West's famous English garden, Sissinghurst. Kincaid's unique style, replete with odd parentheses (the title, for example), asides, deliberate repetitions, and rhetorical questions, draws the reader into her personal world of anxieties, hopes, and joys. Kincaid has given her fellow gardeners something far more engrossing than seed catalogues to look forward to this winter. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Kincaid (My Brother: A Memoir, 1997, etc.) has assembled an impressively varied collection of essays by writers living and dead concentrating on the plants that hold a special, often almost mystical, attraction for them. These pieces are united not only by the writers— devotion to the challenges and (sometimes very subtle) rewards of some one particular species, but by the overriding emotion here: love. The Czech playwright and novelist Karel Capek celebrates the "mysterious ‘Now!' of a garden, the moment unseen when buds emerge into bloom. Thomas Cooper, the editor of Horticulture magazine, celebrates the resilient geraniums, "one of the quintessential garden plants." Michael Pox's essay on "My Grandmother and Her Peonies" strikes a note frequently repeated in the collection: many of the plants that a gardener considers favorites have that status in part because they are entwined with the memories of those one has loved. Every garden is, in its way, a garden of memories. Kincaid nicely balances the collection between the more down-to-earth musings of horticultural writers (Graham Thomas on carnations, Ernest Wilson on the Silver tree, Katherine White on irises) and essays by writers far better known for their work in other genres (Marina Warner on roses, D.H. Lawrence on cyclamens, Elaine Scarry on columbines). An ingenious, varied, and pleasurable collection, certain to strike sparks of recognition in even the most modest gardener. Read full book review >
MY BROTHER by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: Oct. 20, 1997

The death of Kincaid's brother from AIDS results in a book that is lyrically beautiful and emotionally forceful, but lacking a deep examination of its many themes. Writing only a year after the death of her brother, Kincaid (The Autobiography of My Mother, 1996, etc.) uses the event to reexplore issues that permeate her novels and other writings: family, race, and migration. My Brother's flowing, stream-of-consciousness prose pulls readers along through the range of psychological changes Kincaid experiences as she grapples with her loss. From birth, Kincaid's brother Devon had been a source of trouble for the family: committing crimes, taking drugs, and being sexually promiscuous. The contrast between what her brother is at the time of his death (an unrepentant and fated man living in their native Antigua) and what Kincaid has become (a famous writer living in the US) paints a poignant tableau of sibling difference. What is most important here is the precariously complex and often emotionally violent relationships within families. At the forefront is the mother, a figure Kincaid finds herself unwillingly forced to wrestle with again as she attempts to care for the brother she left behind years ago. Distance is what pervades this world: distance from family, from one's origins, from understanding (it is not until after Devon dies that Jamaica learns of his homosexuality). The death of Devon and Kincaid's return to Antigua serve as metaphors for her belief that redemption and escape are finally impossible. But these ideas and the range of others Kincaid touches upon remain underdeveloped throughout the book. Kincaid states, ``These are my thoughts on his dying,'' and reveals the book's flaw: My Brother is a tirade of depression and confusion that fails to make sense of the maelstrom. (First printing of 75,000; author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1996

Kincaid's ambitious new novel of Caribbean life (after Lucy, 1990, etc.) begins with the tantalizing promise of a memorable story about strong mothers and daughters—but then turns into a rhetorical riff on familiar ills of our time. Now in her 70s, Xuela, whose mother died in childbirth, tells of a life irrevocably shaped by a woman she never knew and by the children she herself never had. The idea of a daughter's life being as much her unknown mother's as her own is suggestive with dramatic potential, though here it seemingly becomes little more than excuse for a heavy dose of philosophy on the question of who one really is. Set on the island of Dominica, the tale is suffused with loss and angry grief: says the narrator, ``I came to feel that for my whole life I had been standing on a precipice . . . overwhelmed with sadness.'' Reared for seven years in the home of the woman who washes her father's clothes, Xuela learns to survive by depending only on herself. After she moves back in with her father and his new wife, these are skills that serve her well when her stepmother tries to kill her; and they're equally useful when, attending high school, she becomes pregnant by the man of the house she's then living in and coolly arranges her own abortion. But there's something increasingly indulgent, even cruel, in this self- sufficiency and anger, both of which come to seem more theme-driven than dramatically organic, a quality suggested also in Xuela's rigidly sustained indifference to the man, a British doctor and white, whom she finally marries after first seducing him and then helping his first wife poison herself. Because he's a colonionalist, it's not possible for Xuela to love him, no matter that he loves her deeply and wants to be with her forever. Vintage, tough, cool Kincaid prose, though telling a story that ultimately chills and repels. (First printing of 75,000; author tour) Read full book review >
THE BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 1995 by Jamaica Kincaid
Released: Nov. 15, 1995

Solipsism, as much as skillfulness, is what the contributors to this year's collection seem to have most in common. ``A good essay for me is an essay that pleases me,'' guest editor Kincaid (Lucy, 1990, etc.) declares in her introduction, setting the pace for the overweening, self-indulgent egos that parade through the rest of the volume, coedited by series editor Atwan. The title of William H. Gass's otherwise murky essay clearly states their overarching theme: ``The Art of Self.'' The problem is not this time-honored topic, of course. Rather, it is the excessive narcissism that many of these authors exhibit, whether explicitly discussing themselves or just drifting from some other subject into navel-gazing. We expect nothing else from Harold Brodkey, whose first dispatch from his struggle with AIDS appears here. Maxine Kumin disappoints, however, with a celebration of vegetable gardening that fairly oozes self-satisfaction. Most egregious is Edward Hoagland's apologia for his adulteries, which masquerades as an elegy for his late wife. Some of the autobiographical pieces do manage to avoid blithe egocentrism. Tobias Wolff and Henry Louis Gates Jr., elaborating their already well-known midlife memoirs, keep the focus on their families and friends. Grace Paley sketches the women whom she met when she spent a week in a Greenwich Village jail for protesting the Vietnam war. Fine efforts come from Joseph Brodsky and Elaine Scarry: Brodsky's record of his ongoing fascination with the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius shows him confronting, rather than simply emulating, a prototypical imperial self, while Scarry argues persuasively that the ends of centuries bring a heightening of poetic consciousness. On the evidence of this inconsistent tenth volume, however, such vaunted fin-de-siäcle magic seems to be failing for essays. Read full book review >