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Andrea Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series -- Jamaica Kincaid - April 17, 2011

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Published on Aug 13, 2013

Reading and writing under slavery is a special literary topic for New Yorker writer Jamaica Kincaid. Recorded on Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. as part of the Andrea Neves and Barton Evans Social Justice Lecture Series at Sonoma State University.

Born in Antigua, Kincaid has written throughout her life on colonialism and exploitation, familial relations, Caribbean culture, race, power and social injustice.

She has carved out a unique and cherished place in the American literary landscape, and her comments presented in "In a Small Space: Reading and Writing" offers her perspective on the aftermath of slavery experience on literacy, which still resounds all over the globe today.

Kincaid skillfully and elegantly tempers the boundary between poetry and prose in her books and novels. Her novel Lucy (1990) is an imaginative account of her experience of coming into adulthood in a foreign country, and continues the narrative of her personal history begun in the novel Annie John (1985). Other novels, such as The Autobiography of My Mother (1996) explore issues of colonialism and much of her anger associated with it. This text is a unique departure for Kincaid because of the way it crosses genres. She has also published a collection of short stories, At the Bottom of the River (1983), a collection of essays, A Small Place (1988), and more.

Kincaid's literary "voice" is deeply rooted in her experiences as a child in her native Antigua. Growing up under the colonial rule of England instilled in her a tragic, yet often-ignored perspective. Says Kincaid, "I never give up thinking about the way I came into the world, how my ancestors came from Africa to the West Indies as slaves. I just never forget it. It's like a big wave that's still pulsing."

Known for her candid and emotionally honest writing, in 1976 her work attracted the attention of William Shawn, former editor of The New Yorker, where she became a staff writer and featured columnist for nine years. Kincaid won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts for her first book, At the Bottom of the River. Her award-winning book, A Small Place, inspired the 2001 documentary, Life and Debt, about the impact globalization can have on a developing country. Kincaid is currently at work on a new novel, See Now Then.

Kincaid began her academic career in 1991 at Harvard University, holding joint appointments in the English and African-American Studies departments. She joined Claremont McKenna College in 2009, where she is a professor of literature.

Kincaid was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004 and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She is also the 2010 recipient of the Clifton Fadiman Medal.

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