Winter With the Writers

Jamaica Kincaid

Antiguan-American novelist, essayist, and gardening writer

Event Details

Winter With the Writers welcomed Jamaica Kincaid to Rollins on February 21, 2008.

Speaker Bio

Current as of

Jamaica Kincaid was born in 1949 in St. John’s, Antigua. As an only child, Kincaid maintained a close relationship with her mother until the age of nine, when the first of her three brothers were born. At the age of 16, with a growing ambivalence for her family and a rising contempt for the subservience of the Antiguans to British colonialist rule, Kincaid left Antigua, bound for New York. After working for three years and taking night classes at a community college, Kincaid won a full scholarship to Franconia College in New Hampshire. However, after a year of feeling “too old to be a student,” Kincaid dropped out of school, returned to New York, and secured a job writing interviews for a teenage girls’ magazine.

It was at this time that Kincaid drew the attention of the legendary editor of The New Yorker, William Shawn. She became a staff writer for the magazine in 1976 and a featured columnist for the highly visible “Talk of the Town” section of the magazine for the next nine years. In 1978, Kincaid’s first piece of fiction was published in The New Yorker, and it later became part of her first book, At the Bottom of the River (1983). This short story collection, composed of a series of lyrical vignettes or “prose poems,” focuses on the growing consciousness of a young girl in the Caribbean.

At the Bottom of the River was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the Morton Darwen Zabel Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Two years later, in 1985, Kincaid published her first novel, Annie John, a story that many critics consider an expansion and refinement of the ideas originally presented in At the Bottom of the River.

For her work on Annie John, Kincaid was selected as one of three finalists for the 1985 international Ritz Paris Hemingway Award. In addition, Kincaid is a recipient of the Anifield-Wolf Book Award and The Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. In 1997 she received a nomination for the National Book Award for My Brother, a chronicle of her relationship with her youngest brother. In 2004, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Kincaid’s other major works include A Small Place (1988), Annie, Gwen, Lilly, Pam and Tulip (1989), Lucy (1990), The Autobiography of My Mother (1996), My Brother (1997), My Garden (Book) (1999), Talk Stories (2001), and Mr. Potter (2002). Her latest book is Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya. A visiting professor at Harvard University, where she teaches creative writing, Kincaid is at work on a new novel, See Now Then, about a family in the small village of North Bennington, Vermont, where she lives with her husband, Allen Shawn, a composer and son of the former editor of The New Yorker, and their two children.