You should be familiar with Jamaica Kincaid’s work, but if you’re not, it’s because a writer like Jamaica Kincaid was never meant to exist. By her own admission, her entry to the literary world five decades ago as a young Antiguan woman who originally emigrated to America to work as a servant was “improbable”. Her continued existence as a highly accomplished black woman writer who is not afraid to push convention or aim for the political jugular in her non-fiction work has divided critics – not that their opinion matters.
I, myself, came to Jamaica’s work late, a chance borrow on my library app a few years ago revealed a world full of sharp, incisive prose depicting the intimacies of Black Caribbean girlhood. I had been starving for coming-of-age stories that featured young black girls, and not only was this hunger satisfied with Annie John and Lucy, they were three-dimensional, spirited girls on the verge of womanhood. I fell in love with them, wishing I had read these stories earlier, particularly as a black girl in a mostly-white school whose ‘vim’ and attitude was a constant point of tension with my teachers.