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A Small Place

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  5,225 Ratings  ·  439 Reviews
Lyrical, sardonic, and forthright, A Small Place magnifies our vision of one small place with Swiftian wit and precision. Jamaica Kincaid's expansive essay candidly appraises the ten-by-twelve-mile island in the British West Indies where she grew up, and makes palpable the impact of European colonization and tourism. The book is a missive to the traveler, whether American ...more
Paperback, 81 pages
Published April 28th 2000 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1988)
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Feb 17, 2009 Chloe rated it really liked it
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
Nov 04, 2007 Dee rated it it was amazing
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
Claire McAlpine
Four short autobiographical essays, anti-travel, Jamaica Kincaid at her most provocative. The first essay is quite brilliant, especially as it is written in the second person, you, you, you, thus deliberately embedded with an accusatory tone.

Jamaica Kincaid has been away from Antigua for some years and is seeing it with new eyes when she returns, she describes the ugly, despicable tourist as someone we become when we leave home, how we are despised by locals everywhere. Her essay summed up in th
Annie Dean
Jun 01, 2007 Annie Dean rated it really liked it
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
Ryan Jay
Dec 26, 2015 Ryan Jay rated it it was amazing
I want to give this as a wedding present to any couple planning a Caribbean honeymoon.
Sep 11, 2013 Brittany rated it it was ok
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
Apr 30, 2009 Rose rated it really liked it
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
Hana Alharastani
Mar 10, 2016 Hana Alharastani rated it it was amazing
Jamaica Kincaid's work may be a small book about a small place, but it is a very big book. Everyone should read it. Not only did it immerse me in Antigua in the eyes of an Antiguan, but it also made me stop and think of my privilege as a tourist, as well as privilege in general. At times, I felt like I was a part of the struggle, and at other times, I understood that it was not my place, that I was somehow in line with the Western society that caused the ruination depicted throughout. I felt unc ...more
Apr 18, 2014 Didi rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Caribbean Literature
Caribbean literature is something that I haven’t read very much of, but the first two Jamaica Kincaid novels I read were Annie John and Lucy and that was a little over two years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed them. So to continue my discovery of Kincaid I picked up A Small Place and devoured it in a few hours.

The first few pages surprised me because Kincaid immediately implements the reader in the story. She is speaking directly to us. Many people will feel uncomfortable and resent her accusations, b
Imen Lameri
May 15, 2013 Imen Lameri rated it it was amazing
48 pages of fire, reminds me of Alice Walker's "if I could write in fire, I would write in fire"...
Feb 04, 2009 Ellen rated it it was amazing
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, 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
Nov 15, 2009 William rated it it was amazing
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
Ashley Lowe
Feb 11, 2010 Ashley Lowe rated it really liked it
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
Samantha Parola
Jul 10, 2016 Samantha Parola rated it really liked it
Not intended for those who struggle to detect sarcasm! Yes this book was written 30 years ago, but wow does it apply to the now.
Feb 14, 2017 Bjorn rated it really liked it
Shelves: antigua
Furious, but clever takedown of both colonialism and slave trade (and the way it's followed on through tourism, offshore banking...) and the corruption that inevitably followed in its footsteps after that was the only law anyone knew. Once you stop being a master, once you throw off the yoke of lordship, you're no longer trash, you're just a human with all it entails. That applies to slaves, too. Once they're free, they're no longer noble and elevated; they're just people.
Aug 08, 2010 Hattie rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sep 26, 2016 Nella rated it it was amazing
"Even if I really came from people who were living like monkeys in trees, it was better to be that than what happened to me, what I became after I met you."

There are no words to describe how much I love this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love it with all my heart and this is the best seven dollars and thirteen cents I have ever spent.

This book is only 81 pages, but it says more than an entire library. I relate so intensely with the main idea of the novel-the effects of colonization on Caribbean c
Mar 11, 2013 Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jun 14, 2009 Eleanor rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 13, 2014 Chaneli rated it really liked it
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
John Baker sr.
Oct 11, 2012 John Baker sr. rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2014 Bythedeed rated it really liked it
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
The book encompasses four segments about Antigua, an island nine miles wide and 12 miles long which was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and subsequently settled by Europeans, particularly the British, as part of their trading quest around the world. It's a wry, sardonic and direct jab at colonialism and the view of tourists as they flock to the island on vacation -- to enjoy the blue sky, the warm waters and colorful and lush surroundings. But do they actually "see" what they're visit ...more
Jul 29, 2013 Abigail rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-read
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.
Feb 10, 2017 Jason rated it really liked it
This is an indictment of tourism, imperialism, and corrupt government officials and businessmen; and at the same time this is a memoir and a history of the tiny island country Antigua. Recommended.
Nov 28, 2010 Sandy rated it did not like it
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
Dec 14, 2009 Aloysius rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
May 11, 2010 Erin rated it it was ok
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
Conoscete la sensazione di sfiorare con le dita lo scaffale di una biblioteca, togliervi un libro il cui titolo vi ha colpito, decidere di portarlo a casa e scoprire di essere incappati in una storia bellissima, che vi arricchisce e vi lascia migliori? Sì, è successo così.
Antigua era per me, fino a 83 pagine fa, un paradiso caraibico dal governo incerto, meta turistica al di fuori della mia portata. E proprio usando la metafora turistica Jamaica Kincaid mi ha irretito, presentando da subito e ir
Dec 11, 2008 Stephanie rated it really liked it
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
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500 Great Books B...: A Small Place - Jamaica Kincaid 7 35 Aug 03, 2015 08:32AM  
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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.
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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.” 54 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.” 33 likes
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