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A Small Place

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  9,363 ratings  ·  880 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 July 1st 1988)
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Kim Colonialism is not over. It has taken another form: tourism. That is what this essay is about: what is now called neo-colonialism.

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May 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Jamaica Kincaid is an award winning author and essayist. Her short yet provocative essay A Small Place describing life in her native Antigua has earned inclusion in the book 500 Great Books by Women by Erica Bauermeister. In this essay, Kincaid details foreign presence in Antigua and its influence on her native population.

Kincaid starts her essay describing how one would feel when arriving at Antigua's only airport. A tourist would see a sparkling sea and lush flora but would not notice the lif
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: jamaica-kincaid
The obscenity of mass tourism in struggling paradises could not be shown more eloquently than in this short essay on Antigua, told by a native and addressing YOU - the tourist!

What do we actually know of the societies we invade to get our share of sunshine and blue, glittery water? Not that much. What do we actually DO to those societies when we come there for the settings and ignore the inhabitants as mere decoration at best, or as a nuisance at worst if we have a slight problem with (hidden or
Holding Retribution

African slavery has produced an inestimable amount of suffering in the world, not only in the past but also as a legacy which just keeps on giving. It continues to humiliate long after it has ceased to incarcerate. Often in the most subtle, and therefore profound, ways, slavery continues to repress and to kill.

Jamaica Kincaid’s bio-rant is a catalogue of the residue of slavery in Antiqua - and in the Caribbean and the Americas more generally. What remains from the formal own
Feb 17, 2009 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
Diane S ☔
Nov 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A powerful, albeit short essay by an author who generally tells it like it is, whether fictional or as in this case, not. As a visitor, you travel to a beautiful place. What do you see? Palm trees, blue oceans, friendly people, see the things, visit the sites that all visitors do. Do you, however look beneath the surface? In this essay, Ward takes us on a little journey, uncovering not only the history of this country, Antigua, but showing us the things that are hidden. Mainly how colonization h ...more
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, recs
At once acerbic and affecting, A Small Place sketches a nuanced portrait of the Antiguan author’s homeland. Subverting the conventions of the guidebook, the slim essay is ostensibly addressed to Western tourists seeking to learn more about Antigua. In precise prose, Kincaid eviscerates the island’s corrupt government, recounts a brutal history of British colonization, and lambasts Americans and Europeans who would make the land their playground. As sardonic as the author can be, she also pays ho ...more
Nov 04, 2007 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
Ryan Jay
Dec 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I want to give this as a wedding present to any couple planning a Caribbean honeymoon.
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
A Small Place is Jamaica Kincaid's scathing and brilliant indictment of colonialism and neo-colonialism in the form of tourism in her home of Antigua.

I picked this one up because I wanted something thought-provoking and short and WOW. All written in second-person plural, Kincaid is speaking directly to you... to each of us.
80 pages later, and that was the razor-sharp, trenchant essay I didn't even know I needed.

Highly recommended.
Sleepless Dreamer
A Small Place is several small essays written by Kincaid. From the first sentence, Kincaid had my full attention. Her writing style is powerful and angry but also poetic. She has such a literary voice and it's hard not to listen. 

In essence, she describes the implications of the British colonization and slave trade. She goes into the depth of the damage, the loss of language and culture, of independence and freedom. Even after the British departed, Antigua was left with the remains of coloniali
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I will always be grateful to Stephanie from the blog @ Literary Flits for sending me her copy of this as it's a small book and she was done reading it!

It was a small book, but boy, Jamaica Kincaid was angry in this one. The good kind of angry. The James Baldwin writing Dark Days angry. She is simply fed up with the way her country is being treated, and rightfully so.

This charged essay is clearly and concisely presents its case and shows how terrible colonialism is, and how after all these year
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it

This is the 3rd Kincaid book I've read and she's always been a favorite. Where do I even begin with this one? ...It's brutal. Its brutal for the reader (especially if you are a reader who is white), for Antiguans, the Antiguan government and the tourism industry. Kincaid's 'A Small Place' is full of vitriol. She spews harsh criticisms on her native island's truly dishonest and disappointing leadership as an extension of colonialism. She also critiques
This is a blistering and wholly accurrate look at colonialism. I'm not surprised that some reviewers comment on her angry tone. Her anger is justified and validated in her writing. We are just accustomed to seeing colonialism as a benefit to the world rather than the horror it was.
Damn is this good.
Brown Girl Reading
Apr 18, 2014 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
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
[4.5 stars] A searing and brilliant indictment of all those who have exploited, from slavery to the present time, the citizens of Antigua. Kincaid writes with exquisite, measured fury. (I listened to the Hoopla audio with pitch-perfect narration by Robin Miles)
Sep 11, 2013 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
aPriL does feral sometimes
Confession time, gentle reader. (Of course, I confess all of the time on this site, disguised as 'reviews' so, well, bite me). I know I am self-indulgent in book reviewing, as my reviews are often rants, screams and personal ravings about my life, triggered by some incident or theme in a book I finished reading.

*I enjoy screaming so much since I had a nervous breakdown (PTSD) a few years ago. It is my main reason for attending sports events. My friends think I am excited over a home run or a to
Annie Dean
Jun 01, 2007 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
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
She is angry. She is grief-stricken. She is not at home with the things she lost. She is worried about what might happen if she doesn't speak about the wrongs of the present.

Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place reads like an angry rant of a native who has seen the changes and transformations of her small place and who isn't covert at all with her words. Her 'rants' are anything but incoherent. She, very candidly, brings out chunks from her present and shows how wrong, the natives, particularly the on
Richard Reeve
Feb 12, 2016 rated it did not like it
Part 1 - Poorly written, second-person, sanctimonious, stream of consciousness invective, that appears to have been written by an inebriate.

Part 2 - An immature argument that attacks tourism and British colonialism whilst stating laughable generalizations and infusing these with specifics from her childhood memories of resenting having a wash before seeing a doctor. Ironically, she mentions that "people can recite the first Antiguan who..." but fails to do so. Paradoxically, she also states that
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Wow, this is extremely guilt-inducing to anyone who ever has or wants to go to a beautiful Caribbean island to "get away from it all." Kincaid powerfully points out that Antigua is beautiful but also beset with poverty and other problems that tourists will likely not see. This small nation has not been free from British rule for all that long, and its self-governance did not bring a better life for the average Antiguan.

These essays are scathing and incredibly thought-provoking about the past and
Karen Witzler
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: caribbean
As Salman Rushdie says in the introduction - a jeremiad- but a beautifully written jeremiad and contained in only 80 pages. I fear we are all becoming denizens of "A Small Place" not in a fixed geographical sense like Kincaid's Antigua, but economically and socially between the world of oligarchs, drug barons, tax dodgers, and those who are relegated to the College for Servants and who ought to feel grateful that they aren't outright slaves. I enjoyed the view of history, her personal memories o ...more
Trishita (TrishReviews_ByTheBook)
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
Sometimes a rant, sometimes a lecture, Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place pulses with the power of truth and teaching. I read this in one sitting, narrating it out loud to myself, reading a paragraph more than once. Because that’s the kind of a book this is, a sort of an exposé that tells it like it is, and I had to keep re-reading to understand the graveness of the cases presented to us in this little book.

Antigua is a nation as many others forever changed by British colonisation and, as we learn
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 30, 2009 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 Al-Harastani
Mar 10, 2016 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
At the core of this essay lies a legitimate criticism of tourism, British colonialism and corruption. It balloons out to cover corruption in the past and in the present, in Antigua and in the United States, in Europe and in Africa. It sites case after case, piling each incident up one after the other, incidents occurring up to 1988 when the book was published. With so many sited, no one incident is covered in depth. No constructive solutions are proffered.

What is delivered is a diatribe. The mes
Barbara McEwen
Jan 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Powerhouse! A sizzling hot little book addressing colonialism and capitalism. I have never been to Antigua but the guilt I feel when taking a tropical holiday is definitely not assuaged! No, I totally empathize with the authors sentiments and she voices them so well.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: caribbean
It’s almost 30 years since this was written. I wonder how the author feels about it today. It created a storm in Antigua, as anyone who reads it could well imagine.

It starts with some creative, but not too damaging (to Antigua) thoughts on how tourists (should/do) block out unpleasant thoughts such as where the water they use comes from and where it goes; why the taxi is shiny and new, or how much the people who serve them make and where they live.

From there is moves to a rant, the essence of w
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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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The celebrated author discusses the intersection between autobiography and fiction in See Now Then, her new novel about marriage, love, and hate.
30 likes · 7 comments
“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.” 67 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.” 47 likes
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