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Jamaica Kincaid

  • We were afraid of the dead because we never could tell when they might show up again.

  • At that moment, I missed my mother more than I had ever imagined possible and wanted only to live somewhere quiet and beautiful with her alone, but also at that moment I wanted only to see her lying dead, all withered and in a coffin at my feet.

  • Out of the corner of one eye, I could see my mother. Out of the corner of the other eye, I could see her shadow on the wall, cast there by the lamplight. It was a big and solid shadow, and it looked so much like my mother that I became frightened. For I could not be sure whether for the rest of my life I would be able to tell when it was really my mother and when it was really her shadow standing between me and the rest of the world.

  • The shadow of my mother danced around the room to a tune that my own shadow sang.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • "My Mother," in Stewart Brown, ed., Caribbean New Wave: Contemporary Short Stories ()
  • This naming of things is so crucial to possession — a spiritual padlock with the key thrown irretrievably away — that it is a murder, an erasing, and it is not surprising that when people have felt themselves prey to it (conquest), among their first acts of liberation is to change their names ...

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • "Flowers of Evil," in The New Yorker ()
  • ... when people say you're charming you are in deep trouble.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Donna Perry, ed., Backtalk ()
  • ... the first step in claiming yourself is anger. You get mad. And you can't do anything before you get angry. And I recommend getting very angry to everyone, anyone.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Donna Perry, ed., Backtalk ()
  • Express everything you like. No word can hurt you. None. No idea can hurt you. Not being able to express an idea or a word will hurt you much more. As much as a bullet.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • speech (1991), in Nat Hentoff, Free Speech for Me -- But Not for Thee ()
  • ... if I'd thought that nobody would like it as I was writing it, I would have written it even more. But I never think of the audience. I never think of people reading. I never think of people, period.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Sally Jacobs, The Boston Globe ()
  • Gardening is really an extended form of reading, of history and philosophy. The garden itself has become like writing a book. I walk around and walk around. Apparently people often see me standing there and they wave to me and I don't see them because I am reading the landscape.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Sally Jacobs, The Boston Globe ()
  • I'm sometimes afraid I'll cross a line and it'll be difficult to come back, say, to dinner.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Felicia R. Lee, "At Home With Jamaica Kincaid: Dark Words, Light Being," The New York Times ()
  • I'm writing out of desperation. I felt compelled to write to make sense of it to myself — so I don't end up saying peculiar things like 'I'm black and I'm proud.' I write so I don't end up as a set of slogans and clichés.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Felicia R. Lee, "At Home With Jamaica Kincaid: Dark Words, Light Being," The New York Times ()
  • The truth we have to face about the world we live in is that it's driven by profit, and contradictions and doubts are not profitable. They yield wisdom, but wisdom is not profitable. I find pleasure in doubt, but let's face it, my pleasure is not very profitable. To me, the truth is that things mean many things at once, and all of them opposed to each other, and all of them true.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in Bart Schneider, "Geography Lessons: An Interview with Jamaica Kincaid," Hungry Mind Review ()
  • I write out of defiance.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in O: The Oprah Magazine ()
  • When I'm writing, I think about [my] garden, and when I'm in the garden I think about writing. I do a lot of writing by putting something in the ground.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • in O: The Oprah Magazine ()
  • I can't get upset about 'offensive to women' or 'offensive to blacks' or 'offensive to Native Americans' or 'offensive to Jews' ... Offend! I can't get worked up about it. Offend!

    • Jamaica Kincaid
  • An ugly thing, that is what you are when you become a tourist, an ugly, empty thing, a stupid thing, a piece of rubbish pausing here and there to gaze at this and taste that, and it will never occur to you that the people who inhabit the place in which you have just paused cannot stand you.

  • I was then at the height of my two-facedness: that is, outside I seemed one way, inside I was another; outside false, inside true.

  • I had come to feel that my mother's love for me was designed solely to make me into an echo of her; and I didn't know why, but I felt that I would rather be dead than become just an echo of someone.

  • ... in the place I am from ... a grave is topped off with a huge mound of loose earth — carelessly, as if piled up in child's play, not serious at all — because death is just another way of being, and the dead will not stay put, and sometimes the actions of the dead are more significant, more profound, than their actions in life, and no structure of concrete or stone can contain them.

    • Jamaica Kincaid,
    • "A Fire by Ice," in The New Yorker ()

Jamaica Kincaid, West Indies-born U.S. writer


Real name: Elaine Potter Richardson.