Jamaica Kincaid's Roller Coaster Life

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Family makes us who we are whether we like it or we may hate it but the author we meet not only do we read about her obsession with how her family we can see it because of how strong her writing is. This incredible authors name is Jamaica Kincaid who has written many wonderful books but one in particular is My Brother it is not a novel but a memoir. She goes on this journey of trying to be a good person to her brother, a man who is dying of AIDS. A man she once said he was perfect until he wasn’t because of what it is that’s going on with him, I will be focusing on Jamaica Kincaid’s memoir as a close reading and the relationship with her brother and how it seemed to just slowly disappear because of his sickness. I will be also focusing on her novel Lucy: A Novel that is which a fiction but doesn’t seem like it at all because she puts her own real life stories in this fiction novel. I am writing about these two books because in her memoir we read real life stories but in a fiction we know anything can happen but Kincaid always seems to keep her life in most of her books even if they are fiction. I believe it’s as though Kincaid cannot leave her past in the past it seems as though the minute she gets the chance to she brings her life in her writings.
Right from the beginning of My Brother we know her brother is the different one because out of the four kids her mother had her brother was the one born at the house. “He was not born in the hospital. Of my mother’s four children, he was the one born at home” (pg.3). I think we know right from the beginning her brother was the different one just that one thing him being born in the house made him different somehow. I think the way Kincaid wants us to read it is in a way of knowing her brother is different I mean we know he’s already from AIDS but why mention he wasn’t the one born in the hospital.

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She grabs her reader’s right from the beginning she wants us the readers to be captured so she does this, she tells us right away she doesn’t ease her way into it.
Imagery is a big part of Kincaids My Brother It comes throughout the book we see it in the beginning when she speaks of the ants that almost killed her brother.
“When she awoke, she found him covered with ants”… “But I was only wondering if it had any meaning that some small red things had almost killed him on the outside shortly after he was born and then now some small things were killing him from the inside “(6)
As I read this I cringed because imagine these red ants just crawling all over you and your just hurting all over your body it makes me want to jump out of my seat. She makes her readers not just read but put us in a place where she is. Kincaid wants us to know what it is going through her mind because when she does say this she doesn’t say it to anyone but in her mind and tried to figure out if her brother now feels like there are little red ants in him slowly killing him . Kincaid’s mind is trying to figure out how her brother is feeling but in reality how can one feel what another person is feeling.
I believe the way he is dying Kincaid can’t accept it I mean she says that if her brother were in a bad accident then she could accept it but since it’s something she would think about and something he should be more careful when sleeping with people she didn’t know he slept with men. Maybe Kincaid took that more because he didn’t tell her that he was sleeping with men as well. She didn’t know as she says in her memoir. He was careless she states “He was careless; I cannot imagine him taking the time to buy or use a condom. This is a quick judgment because I don’t know my brother very well, but I am pretty sure that a condom would not be something he would have troubled himself to use.”(7-8) It seems she’s more mad about the AIDS than him dying because she says in the past she had told him to be careful but he just kind of brushed it off “once a few years ago …I told him to use condoms when having sex with anyone; I told him to protect himself from HIV he laughed said he would never get it” (8)

“For one when my mother and I were outside …she was complaining …I noticed that the lemon tree my sick brother had planted was no longer there I asked about it, and she said quite casually, Oh we cut it down… I felt ashamed. That lemon tree would have been one of the things left of his life”(13).
It’s interesting how her mother says that like it was nothing special. By her mother cutting the tree down was for a reason a way of telling her she would have to accept her son dying so by her cutting the tree she was kind of cutting her son out of her life because that eventually is going to happen . I don’t know if it was a metaphor to this but what are the odds her brother the one with AIDS is the one who planted this tree and his mother cut it off and for the mother to do that it’s as though she cut her son out of her life before he actually dies she is accepting the reality that he no longer will be around. I felt as though she was mad at her brother for getting this disease because she says on this page he didn’t have anything no home no kids nothing. Kincaid seemed like she was ashamed of how his life played out he didn’t have anything to even leave behind. But I don’t think Kincaid sees that the life he lived was perfectly fine with him and she can’t bring herself to accept his life he lived.
“The photograph of my brother that is in this album shows a young man, beautiful and perfect in the way of young people, for young people are always perfect and beautiful until they are not, until the moment they just are not.”
We read that Kincaid believed that in the photo she sees that her brother was this perfect figure like nothing in the world can even hurt him. He was young and beautiful but then something happened to him he caught the disease AIDS and so now her brother is no longer this perfect person to her. I don’t think she really just meant to say when he was young I believe what she is saying here is AIDS made him this imperfect person but I mean who is perfect in this world. It seemed like her brother was this person she wanted to make something out of himself . I believe Kincaid is utterly mad with AIDS and what it does to people what it did to her baby brother.
The other book I mentioned earlier is a novel called Lucy: A Novel. It is about a girl who struggles leaving her homeland to make something of herself in the United States. Lucy is homesick when things start to get a little scary, she has this roller coaster ride it seems like nothing is going how she thought it would. Leaving her homeland didn’t really help because she was leaving her family problems behind but it seemed to follow her because she saw those problems in the family she stayed with.
“I wondered if ever in my whole life a day would go by when these people I had left behind, my own family, would not appear before me in one way or another.”
This quote comes up in “Poor Visitor” I believe it is when Lucy becomes really homesick. Just as in her memoir she left her family behind because she can no longer deal with them she wasn’t planning to come back. This comment she says she doesn’t want her family to ever come to her but we know she is homesick and a part of her is missing them because they are who make her family makes her who she is whether Lucy likes it or not. In Kincaid’s memoir My Brother she mentions that she left them behind her family for the same reason Lucy left her family behind but Kincaid in My Brother she goes back to her family because they need her for just that little while because her brother is dying. But in Lucy : A Novel I think Kincaid wanted to be Lucy and never have to go back to her family because it seemed like nothing ever good came out of them.
An Interview I came across from her book Lucy: A Novel. A woman names Kay Bonetti seems to want to know if this book is more than just a fiction, she mentions that if the character Lucy Josephine Potter was one of her birth names and Kincaid simply replied saying well I needed a name. but as the interview goes more in depth we start to see Kincaid in Lucy a lot even though Kincaid seems to deny it at some points Lucys stories are very much like Kincaids real life. Here is a very small part of this interview:
Bonetti: Ms. Kincaid, in the novel Lucy, you give Lucy Josephine Potter one of your birth names and your own birthday. How closely do the facts of Lucy’s biography match your own?
Kincaid: She had to have a birth-date so why not mine? She was going to have a name that would refer to the slave part of her history, so why not my own? I write about myself for the most part, and about things that have happened to me. Everything I say is true, and everything I say is not true. You couldn’t admit any of it to a court of law. It would not be good evidence.
Bonetti: Where did the story of the green figs and the black snake come from?
Kincaid: That was a story my mother told me about herself, but the outcome of that story as it is in the book is not what really happened. I tried to write a story about my mother and myself, and there were incidents that I perceived as betrayal, at the time, though I don’t necessarily believe that now. In my writing I suppose I’m trying to understand how I got to be the person I am. The truth is important, but it’s a certain kind of truth.
Jamaica Kincaid always seems to keep herself in her writings. I don’t necessarily think that it is a bad thing that she always has something from her life in her books but maybe as she says “I’m trying to understand how I got to the person I am”.
It seems as though Jamaica Kincaid’s works always have similar sayings about her family and the love she may or may not have for them. In her memoir My Brother she says;
“I love the people I am from, and I do not love the people I am from, and I do not really know what it means to say so…these feelings are not permanent…One day something may happen and I will understand that all things I now feel ,which do nat all seem like love ” (149)
By now in her memoir the reader knows her brother had passed away. She says that her brother died and every time she even remembered that part it was like he kept dying all over again. I think that because her brother is no longer there a part of her is no longer with her and when she mentions that she may or may not love the people that she came from she doesn’t understand that I assume when she mentions about the feelings not being permanent she is saying that love isn’t permanent because when you love someone you can’t love them forever because they leave this world. This is almost at the very end of the book and Kincaid knows she cant love her family too much because eventually they will be gone.
In her novel Lucy: A Novel Lucy is having all these feelings about her family and not wanting to be where they were and so she leaves to make herself better from them because it seemed as though they were holding her down. At the very end of her novel Lucy becomes someone, a better person and has a good job and has her own apartment. Lucy is pretty well off without her family and she sends a letter to her mother saying “I wish I could love someone so much that I would die from it.” I believe this quote is put in this novel because Kincaid knows that Lucy who seems to be exactly in the same position as Kincaid once was known that she cannot love because by her loving it’s all a scam. Eventually the people Kincaid loves leave this world when she started to love her brother again he left this world and she couldn’t handle it so as much as she wants to love them it seems impossible to do so. In the novel Lucy: A Novel Kincaid writes about wishing to love someone that she would die but Lucy distance herself from her family that she couldn’t even if she tried and in Kincaid’s memoir Kincaid did that in her life she distance herself from her family.
My point in including her two books My Brother and Lucy: A Novel is to indicate that Kincaid never seems to want to leave her life behind even though we know both in her memoir and novel, family is left behind in order for these women to have a better life. Lucy: A Novel came out before her memoir and I believe in her fiction novel she wanted to be Lucy because Lucy never went back even though it was her mind that was always there and thinking of her family she never physically went. Lucy simply wrote a letter and what made the letter more of a sad thing is she put a fake address to make sure her family would never find her. I think a part of Kincaid is that she would have disappeared and no one could find her but it seems as though she just keeps going back not physically but mentally to her family, a family she says she didn’t want to be a part of.



Works Cited

Bonettie, Kay. "Interview with Jamaica Kincaid." TMR Content Archives.
Kincaid, Jamaica. My Brother. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. Print.
Kincaid, Jamaica. Lucy: [a Novel]. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1990. Print



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