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A Small Place

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  3,725 ratings  ·  315 reviews
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
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Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 28th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

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Chloe
Feb 18, 2009 Chloe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who think that Frantz Fanon was too tame
Holy vituperative rage, Batman! The descriptions of this book that I had read on Goodreads in no way described the acerbic bitterness of Kincaid as a writer. Each page is one brutal indictment after another. Nothing escapes her ire; from the English masters who colonized the island to the fat and pasty tourists who visit for a chance to sample the "exotic" backwardness of island life and who cluck their tongues reprovingly at the corruption that is endemic to island governance. "Fuck you," she s ...more
Dee
A poignant read for a book in concentrate (i.e. it's a short book, but it packs a brilliant punch). I used to own a copy until I was sitting in an airport one day and "befriended" a happy WASP family on their way home from a Carribean cruise. It was an enjoyable conversation until the mom started spewing some ignorant comments about the 'exotic' beauty of the places they had visited (including Antigua) and then decided I should have some Jesus pamphlet. I thought: if she thinks I'll benefit from ...more
Annie Dean
Jun 01, 2007 Annie Dean rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: tourists
If anyone feels like reading the thesis of my term paper... :)

In A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid uses her complex insider-outsider status within each of the three countries she was shaped by in her life—Britain, America, and her native Antigua—to argue that the reason islanders must rely on white culture for survival is due to the continual degradation of the education system. Her comprehension of the complex issues within each of these societies allows her to prove to her primarily white audien
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Brittany
Never in my life have I been so perturbed by something I read than by Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place. I love and hate this book at the same time. This is the kind of book that makes me uncomfortable with myself, and forces me to think about my world in a way that I don't like to admit. Maybe that’s why I lean more towards not liking this book. Maybe there is some uncomfortable deficiency within myself that she brings to the surface like an angry boil. But I don’t think that is wholly the reason ...more
Rose
This rageful and funny indictment of tourism in formerly colonized countries is not as predictable as it seems at first. Who does Jamaica Kincaid disdain more thoroughly, the British who colonized Antigua, the corrupt elite who now rule, her fellow Antiguans who attend the Hotel Training School to learn "how to be a good nobody", or the hapless tourists who fly into this mess looking for a nice beach? It's hard to tell, and therein lies the interesting tension in this book, which she sums up wit ...more
John Baker sr.
I use the chapter titled, "A Small Place" for rhetorical analysis in my AP classes as well as in college comp. classes. It's so rich in rhetorical devices and it seems every time I assign it, I learn something new. It's fun to play with audience, purpose, and tone in this angry piece. It also convinced me never to visit Antigua in my island hopping adventures, but I'm not sure this was her purpose. If you look up the list of AP rhetorical devices, you can pretty much use this piece to find many ...more
Abigail
Read this for some native perspective on life in the Caribbean. Although about the small 9 x 12 mile country of Antique, this is a great short memoir/essay on the often uneasy relationship between native and tourist. I also appreciated the Kincaid's insight into how a small country struggles for identity after colonialism. Her writing is about 1 country in particular, but could be about any developing/third world country. Great to read on the plane while about to travel.
Imen Lameri
48 pages of fire, reminds me of Alice Walker's "if I could write in fire, I would write in fire"...
Ashley Lowe
This is an incredibly powerful, angry book, with intense writing that speaks directly to the reader. It begins with, "If you go to Antigua as a tourist, this is what you will see." Anyone considering a trip to the Caribbean (or anywhere less wealthy than America) should be required to read this. Jamaica Kincaid shines what feels like a fresh new light on racism and colonialism (the book was published in 1988 but feels extra relevant today as we watch Haiti struggle to rebuild itself). Slavery an ...more
Sandy
Kincaid's tirade against the Western powers which colonized and exploited small, Caribbean territories such as her homeland of Antigua and the corrupt, patronizing leaders who have dominated the political scene since the island nation achieved independence. She spends a lot of time berating tourists for cluttering her beaches and degrading her island's culture without really understanding it. I know her intent was to make the (probably Western) reader feel uncomfortable and guilty for the sins o ...more
William
Non-fiction that I'm totally digging!
The book starts off and you're thinking, "Ok, this isn't anything I don't know or don't feel guilty about all ready." It's not an annoyance, but it's not very compelling to read the white guilt you're probably already feeling having just like been to the groccery store or something banal and horrible like that. But the content (best word I can think of) becomes so brutal, and you realize Jamaica Kincaid is talking about Antigua--not Cuba or Jamaica or anythin
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Ellen
As someone who recently traveled to the Caribbean (though not to Antigua) and observed the attitudes American tourists often display towards the native people of these islands, it was interesting to read the other side of the story. If you read the reviews of this book on Amazon.com, you will see plenty of people tsk-tsking Ms. Kincaid for her 'tone,' for her 'anger,' as if to say, "you'll never accomplish anything THAT way!" But I think I get where she's coming from, at least it a way--westerne ...more
Hattie
Aug 08, 2010 Hattie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: y
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid

Like many of you, I have been a tourist in different places. Jamaica Kincaid begins her book by describing how a tourist looks at the new place he or she has discovered. Jamaica Kincaid seems so right about tourists. I tend to wear ear stoppers and rose colored glasses. This is to keep myself from sights that might make my heart bleed and my eyes to cry. When I am a tourist, I don't want to think about the cleanliness of the water i
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Ann
I read this book years ago, maybe as much as 15 years ago, yet it is one of those books you never forget. This book can change your attitude toward tourism, tourists, and disenfranchisement. It changed me, my idea of what tourism was, who tourists were , but most of all it directed my attention to the "native", the persons living where tourists go for relaxation, tours, education, etc. the persons most directly impacted by tourism, both negatively and positively. It's a juxtaposition I'd failed ...more
Aloysius
Had to read this for a class, along with "Lucy", and this was by far the more intelligent and lucid of the two books. (Which might be an unwarranted comparison, but I stand by it. The title character in "Lucy" was like a contemporary incarnation of Balzac's Cousin Bette: envious, spiteful, downright abhorrent.) Maybe it's because I grew up on a tiny tropical island myself, but certain passages in "A Small Place" just clicked immediately - especially the bit where she mourns the derelict library ...more
Eleanor
Jun 14, 2009 Eleanor rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Eleanor by: Felix Endara
This book is the perfect nugget of a non-fiction essay. Kincaid's prose is sharpened to a razor's edge and polished to feel effortless. Though written in the 1980's, the lessons hold true today for thinking critically about the mess colonialism and globalization has wrought. I was familiar with the opening lines of this book since it was borrowed for the narration of the documentary "Life and Debt" (which is about Jamaica, whereas this book squarely focuses on Antigua), but taken as a whole this ...more
Erik
You start to read the book about Antigua;you think, why does Antigua concern me; you realize that observations about Antigua are relevent to everyone everywhere;you learn to appreciate how the book about antigua is written; with its mix of personal observation, history, and colloquialisms it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling of anti-colonialism
Erin
I found the author completely annoying. She starts out saying how horribly stupid tourists are and how she and her countrymen enjoy mocking Europeans and Americans...and then escalates to blaming those same people (though more specifically the English) for all the problems that Antigua is currently facing. The part that bugged me was the tone of entitlement that went along with that blame, and having that tone juxtaposed to the mocking from the beginning of the book. It was like she was saying " ...more
Chaneli
Such an incredibly powerful and important essay on the topic of tourism, white privilege, corrupt governments and their officials, racism, slavery, colonialism, etc. I believe everyone should read this and really think critically about our history and the privileges that you have. To also think about when you do travel to other countries and what that means. While reading this a lot of other books/authors came to mind, for example, Nayyirah Waheeds books of poems Salt. and Nejma, Americanah by C ...more
Bythedeed
I stumbled upon this book in a thriftstore a few weeks ago and it seemed interesting. I read it a few days ago and loved it.

Kincaid was just so bitter, spiteful, full of rage and clear-headed. I loved it.

Later in the day while trying to find out more about Jamaica Kincaid I read that a common criticism of their writing is that it's too angry. How's that a criticism? What the fucks wrong with people?

One of my favorite lines:

"Do you know why people like me are shy about being capitalists? Well, it
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Stephanie
My friends in Fiji should read this. It is really a long essay about the history, people, and life of Antigua, a small Carribean island that was an English colony. It became a center for the slave trade and, although independent in name now, comtinues to be a place of political and economic corruption. Some painful insights into how islanders rightfully view foreigners and tourists remind me of how I sometimes felt Fijians viewed Europeans.Also the significance of Antigua being a small place wit ...more
Mark Folse
Jamaica Kincaid slices open the tumorous history of European colonialism with such finesse and beauty you will marvel at her talent. She is V.S. Naipaul with a switchblade hidden in her notebook. You will long to stand on those pink beaches and visit the colorful markets of Antigua, far from library unrepaired a decade after The Earthquake (and my people in New Orleans will understand that capitalization), far from the rusting oil-refinery scheme. You will loathe yourself for wishing to be a tou ...more
Cynthia
Mar 02, 2014 Cynthia added it
Shelves: read-for-class
"All masters of every stripe are rubbish, and all slaves of every stripe are noble and exalted; there can be no question about this [...] Of course, the whole thing is, once you cease to be a master, once you throw off your master's yoke, you are no longer human rubbish, you are just a human being, and all the things that adds up to. So too, with the slaves."

I think that this insight is great, but not one that Jamaica Kincaid actually buys into. In this essay, tourists and whites and the English
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Lee Ann
I really wanted to give this book four or even five stars because I agree wholeheartedly with Kincaid's attitude. Some people find her offensive, but she's not wrong. Or racist, which I know is the second most common outcry. She's just vocal about her truth.

That being said, I had to read this book for school. Reading something for school inevitably makes it a liiiiittle less exciting to read than it would be if I chose to read it on my own. So that lost it a star, no fault of the book's really.
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Daniel Apatiga
The accusatory tone of the narrator affects the reader’s self-perception when visiting other countries in a positive aspect; it causes him/her to rethink what it means to be viewed as an outsider, essentially. The narrator’s accusatory remarks are founded on the narrator’s observations for the most part on white, typically European and American tourists, despite the novella being a fiction. And these observations that the narrator makes on a few institutions that are set up to create a sense of ...more
Jennifer
this was a nice book, but it was a little too didactic for my taste. it deals a lot with imperialism, post-colonialism, and tourism. these are all things that i read a lot about for my job, so i didn't need for it to be handed to me so heavy-handedly in this book. it is a book that i might consider teaching someday.
Meg Petersen
I am going to have to read this again. What a pithy little book about the effects of colonialism. It's about Antigua, but could be applied to many Caribbean places. This had been on my shelf a long time. I am so glad I finally read it.
Jenn
I read this book my first morning in Antigua. I was dumbstruck how right on Ms. Kincaid had my travel to Antigua - yes, on the taxi ride from the airport there was much talk of rain, the taxi was a Toyota and I had brought the newest economic book (Capital by Piketty) with me. Then, the kicker for me, just after I read about "The Earthquake" my husband calls out from our hotel room to me on the beach, asking if I had just felt the earthquake! Wish some of my fellow tourists had read this book; t ...more
Princess
What begins as a missive to a first-time visitor to Antigua (replete with pointed "helpful" advice) becomes an eloquent and incisive rant about the state of affairs in Antigua: how in such a short time, the government that Antiguans had elected had run the country to the ground; how Antiguan adults became a strange mix of child, artist, and lunatic in order to deal with the legacy that slavery had left them, that is, the drudgery of day-to-day living in a country where the fruit of their labor w ...more
Gayla
Loving this so far. The thing I have always appreciated about her books is that she expresses anger without apology.
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Jamaica Kincaid is a novelist, gardener, and former reporter for The New Yorker Magazine. She is a Professor of Literature at Claremont-McKenna College.
More about Jamaica Kincaid...
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“You are not an ugly person all the time; you are not an ugly person ordinarily; you are not an ugly person day to day. From day to day, you are a nice person. From day to day, all the people who are supposed to love you on the whole do. From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and lie, dismayed and puzzled at how alone you can feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed, how awful it is to go unloved, even as you are surrounded by more people than you could possibly get to know in a lifetime that lasted for millennia and then out of the corner of your eye you see someone looking at you and absolute pleasure is written all over the person's face, and then you realize that you are not as revolting a presence as you think you are. And so, ordinarily, you are a nice person, an attractive person, a person capable of drawing to yourself the affection of other people, a person at home in your own skin: a person at home in your own house, with its nice backyard, at home on your street, your church, in community activities, your job, at home with your family, your relatives, your friends - you are a whole person.” 40 likes
“That the native does not like the tourist is not hard to explain. For every native of every place is a potential tourist, and every tourist is a native of somewhere. Every native everywhere lives a life of overwhelming and crushing banality and boredom and desperation and depression, and every deed, good and bad, is an attempt to forget this. Every native would like to find a way out, every native would like a rest, every native would like a tour. But some natives—most natives in the world—cannot go anywhere. They are too poor. They are too poor to go anywhere. They are too poor to escape the reality of their lives; and they are too poor to live properly in the place they live, which is the very place you, the tourist, want to go—so when the natives see you, the tourist, they envy you, they envy your ability to leave your own banality and boredom, they envy your ability to turn their own banality and boredom into a source of pleasure for yourself.” 12 likes
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