Jamaica Kincaid- Biography
Jamaica Kincaid was born on the West Indian island of Antigua. She has a particular prose style and voice: it is approachable but also lyrical, image-driven, and will stand the test of time. Jamaica has spent three decades distinguishing herself from the male Caribbean novelists. She writes autobiographical stories on mother-daughter relationships, the effects and consequences of colonialism, and her general sentiments of estrangement. Her literary works cross-racial and gender lines to reach a global audience. Kincaid has emerged as a significant voice in contemporary writing and is regarded as one of the Caribbean’s most influential female writers.
Her lengthy and illustrious career has earned her a position in the literary canon for her work that is profoundly personal, honest, and stylish. As a girl in Antigua at the time, she had few options, but her boys were encouraged to pursue higher degrees and positions of renown in society. If she had stayed, she would have been forced to work as a teacher or librarian. Her mother, who taught her Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Keats, and the King James Bible, provided the rebellious girl with a foundation in English literature. Kincaid was a huge fan of Charlotte Bronte’s books. Continue reading to learn more about her life and work.
Jamaica Kincaid- Birth, Age, Ethnicity, Siblings, Education
Elaine Potter Richardson was born on May 25, 1949, in St. John’s, Antigua, a British colonial outpost that did not obtain independence from Britain until 1981. Elaine would never meet her biological father, a cab driver called Roderick, and a mother named Annie Richardson Drew. Her stepfather, David Drew, and her mother, on the other hand, raised Elaine as their sole child until she was nine years old. She was a bright student who received a scholarship at the ‘Princess Margaret School,’ which was part of the British educational system.
Her life altered dramatically when her three brothers were born at the age of nine. Kincaid’s mother and stepfather were too preoccupied to lavish attention on their daughter. Her stepfather grew unwell around the time of her third son’s birth. Annie drew the young girl from school to care for him. This would have a long-term impact on Elaine. Elaine envied her brothers because they were encouraged to attend universities to continue their education. She was brought to America to work as an “au pair” for an affluent family, with the assumption that she would study nursing and return her earnings back to her family.
Instead of following her mother’s orders, the disobedient teen studied photography at the ‘New School for Social Research and then transferred to ‘Franconia College’ in New Hampshire.
Jamaica Kincaid- Relationship, Married Life
Kincaid worked in New York as a secretary, model, and backing vocalist after working as an au pair. She was a wild child in the city in 1970, with bleached hair. From 1979 through 2002, she was married to Allen Shawn. The couple had a daughter, Annie, in 1985, and a boy, Harold, four years later.
Jamaica Kincaid- Professional Career
Because her family did not approve of her writing, Elaine created the pen name Jamaica Kincaid in 1973. The same year, her interview with Gloria Steinem was published as the first work under her pen name. She then went on to write a series of articles titled ‘When I Was Seventeen,’ which were inspired by the interview. Her first official work was a series of pieces for the journal ‘Ingenue.’ It was around this period that she began to make friends with New York’s literary intellectuals. She kept working as a freelancer for the next three years, making contacts in the meanwhile.
She met William Shawn, the editor of the ‘New Yorker,’ through Michael O’Donoghue, a friend who wrote a column for the publication. Shawn recruited her after she submitted an article for the ‘Talk of the Town’ section and would later mentor her. Kincaid began contributing to the New Yorker on a regular basis in 1976. Her first piece of literature, a short tale called ‘Girl,’ was published in the magazine two years later.
Under the guidance of William Shawn, she established her own writing style at the New Yorker, rising from the ranks of a staff writer to a featured columnist for ‘Talk of the Town,’ and eventually an editor. She left the magazine after twenty years in 1996 when stand-up comedian and actress Roseanne Barr was invited to guest edit an issue. It was the same year that her younger brother died of AIDS.
She continued to write when she left the New Yorker. Her novels were imaginative depictions of her coming-of-age in a strange nation, and they followed the story of her personal past, including being separated from relatives. She also addressed colonialism and her rage at its ramifications in them. She also published a collection of short stories and an essay collection. During the 176th Commencement Exercises of ‘Wesleyan University,’ she was awarded an honorary degree of ‘Doctor of Humane Letters.’ Kincaid lives in North Bennington, Vermont, with her family.
Until June 2009, she was a visiting lecturer and creative writing instructor at ‘Harvard University.’
Kincaid is currently a Literature professor at ‘Claremont McKenna College’ in California. Kincaid’s debut collection of short tales, ‘At the Bottom of the River,’ was published in 1983. This book, which included her typical autobiographical fiction, gained critical praise and was awarded the ‘Morton Dauwen Zabel Award’ by the ‘American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.’
‘See Now, Then,’ Kincaid’s most recent novel, won the ‘2013 American Book Award.’
Achievements & Awards
- Kincaid wrote the book-length essay ‘A Small Place’ in 1988, expressing her sadness and disdain of the horrors committed by corrupt officials of the post-colonial administration in her country against the average man, as well as how the natives were exploited by visitors.
- She was awarded the ‘Guggenheim Fellowship’ in 1989 to help with research and artistic creation.
The ‘Anisfield-Wolf Book Award’ was given to ‘The Autobiography of My Mother,’ which was published in 1997.
Kincaid was awarded the ‘Lannan Literary Award for Fiction in 1999.