JAMAICA AND ME by Linda Atkins


The Story of an Unusual Friendship
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A tale, told with compassion and affection, of an angry young black girl caught in the child welfare system and the white, middle-class psychoanalyst who became her friend. Jamaica was an eight-year-old refugee from the streets when Atkins first met her at a New York City hospital, where she was living until a home could be found for her. Jamaica had been abandoned by her prostitute mother and sexually abused by one of her mother’s johns. Placed in a loving foster home, she had falsely accused her foster mother’s boyfriend of sexually abusing her. Jamaica was returned to the hospital, where Atkins found her and formally signed up as Jamaica’s Big Sister. Atkins begins her story with a brief overview of her own early life, which included a terrible bout with polio, plus a stint as a child therapist in a residential treatment center similar to the one to which Jamaica was eventually moved. Jamaica was allowed to go on day trips and eventually to spend weekends with Atkins. The girl was defiant, manipulative, a thief, and a liar. Atkins was also disturbed and sometimes embarrassed by Jamaica’s overtly sexual behavior almost any time a man was around. Despite all that, Atkins was genuinely fond of the child, admiring her energy, curiosity, and determination. They shared adventures at Coney Island, indulged frequently in Jamaica’s favorite meal (Kentucky Fried Chicken), and thrilled together as Jamaica learned to ride a bike, to roller skate, and to compete in a footrace. Atkins was ultimately able to locate Jamaica’s previous foster mother, who agreed to take the child back. Once Jamaica moved in with her foster mother, Atkins never saw her again. Disappointed but hopeful, Atkins feels the brief period when they were friends gave the child “her only shot.” Gripping in its simplicity and honesty, a story of a tormented little girl who may have found some solace in the love of a stranger. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0-375-50073-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1998