The Autobiography of My Mother by Jamaica Kincaid

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Synopsis

Powerful, disturbing, stirring, Jamaica Kincaid's novel is the deeply charged story of a woman's life on the island of Dominica. Xuela Claudette Richardson, daughter of a Carib mother and a half-Scottish, half-African father, loses her mother to death the moment she is born and must find her way on her own.
Kincaid takes us from Xuela's childhood in a home where she could hear the song of the sea to the tin-roofed room where she lives as a schoolgirl in the house of Jack Labatte, who becomes her first lover. Xuela develops a passion for the stevedore Roland, who steals bolts of Irish linen for her from the ships he unloads, but she eventually marries an English doctor, Philip Bailey. Xuela's is an intensely physical world, redolent of overripe fruit, gentian violet, sulfur, and rain on the road, and it seethes with her sorrow, her deep sympathy for those who share her history, her fear of her father, her desperate loneliness. But underlying all is "the black room of the world" that is Xuela's barrenness and motherlessness.

The Autobiography of My Mother is a story of love, fear, loss, and the forging of a character, an account of one woman's inexorable evolution evoked in startling and magical poetry.

 

About Jamaica Kincaid

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Jamaica Kincaid was born in St. John's, Antigua. Her books include At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, My Brother, and Mr. Potter, all published by FSG. She lives with her family in Vermont.
 
Published January 15, 1996 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 244 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Autobiography of My Mother

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Kincaid's ambitious new novel of Caribbean life (after Lucy, 1990, etc.) begins with the tantalizing promise of a memorable story about strong mothers and daughters—but then turns into a rhetorical riff on familiar ills of our time.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Autobiography of My Mother

Entertainment Weekly

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MY MOTHER Jamaica Kincaid (Plume/Penguin, $10.95, 1996)A beautifully written downer of a novel about a Caribbean girl whose mother died in childbirth.

Jan 17 1997 | Read Full Review of The Autobiography of My Mother

Entertainment Weekly

Jamaica Kincaid's The Autobiography of My Mother, a portrait of a Caribbean girl whose mother died in childbirth, is a beautifully written downer.

Feb 09 1996 | Read Full Review of The Autobiography of My Mother

Project MUSE

This erasure, repeated in Mr. Potter's similar treatment of the many daughters he had fathered upon the bodies of as many women, becomes not only the source of a lifelong hurt but also the ground on which Kincaid is able to create Mr. Potter, the fictional construct who is nevertheless "real."

| Read Full Review of The Autobiography of My Mother

Project MUSE

This erasure, repeated in Mr. Potter's similar treatment of the many daughters he had fathered upon the bodies of as many women, becomes not only the source of a lifelong hurt but also the ground on which Kincaid is able to create Mr. Potter, the fictional construct who is nevertheless "real."

| Read Full Review of The Autobiography of My Mother

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