Jamaica Kincaid

Writing Memory, Writing Back to the Mother

By J. Brooks Bouson

Subjects: Women's Studies, Psychoanalysis, Literary Criticism, Latin American Studies
Paperback : 9780791465240, 252 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791465233, 252 pages, July 2005

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Table of contents



1. "When You Think of Me, Think of My Life"

Part I. In the Shadow of the Mother

2. "I Had Embarked on Something Called Self-Invention" Artistic Beginnings in "Antigua Crossings" and At the Bottom of the River

3. "The Way I Became a Writer Was That My Mother Wrote My Life for Me and Told It to Me": Living in the Shadow of the Mother in Annie John

4. "As I Looked at This Sentence a Great Wave of Shame Came over Me and I Wept and Wept": The Art of Memory, Anger, and Despair in Lucy

Part II. A Very Personal Politics

5. "Imagine the Bitterness and the Shame in Me as I Tell You This": The Political Is Personal in A Small Place and "On Seeing England for the First Time"

Part III. Family Portraits

6. "I Would Bear Children, but I Would Never Be a Mother to Them": Writing Back to the Contemptuous Mother in The Autobiography of My Mother

7. "I Shall Never Forget Him Because His Life Is the One I Did Not Have": Remembering Her Brother's Failed Life in My Brother

8. "Like Him and His Own Father before Him, I Have a Line Drawn through Me": Imagining the Life of the Absent Father in Mr. Potter

9. Conclusion. "I Am Writing for Solace": Seeking Solace in Writing, Gardening, and Domestic Life


Works Cited


Offers a new perspective on the psychological and affective dynamics of Jamaica Kincaid’s fiction and nonfiction.


Haunted by the memories of her powerfully destructive mother, Jamaica Kincaid is a writer out of necessity. Born Elaine Potter Richardson, Kincaid grew up in the West Indies in the shadow of her deeply contemptuous and abusive mother, Annie Drew. Drawing heavily on Kincaid's many remarks on the autobiographical sources of her writings, J. Brooks Bouson investigates the ongoing construction of Kincaid's autobiographical and political identities. She focuses attention on what many critics find so enigmatic and what lies at the heart of Kincaid's fiction and nonfiction work: the "mother mystery. " Bouson demonstrates, through careful readings, how Kincaid uses her writing to transform her feelings of shame into pride as she wins the praise of an admiring critical establishment and an ever-growing reading public.

J. Brooks Bouson is Professor of English at Loyola University Chicago. She is the author of Quiet As It's Kept: Shame, Trauma, and Race in the Novels of Toni Morrison, also published by SUNY Press; Brutal Choreographies: Oppositional Strategies and Narrative Design in the Novels of Margaret Atwood; and The Empathic Reader: A Study of the Narcissistic Character and the Drama of the Self.