Daily Archives: June 28, 2010

“The Autobiography of my Mother” by Jamaica Kincaid

“The Autobiography of my Mother” is a weird title choice for this book because the first sentence tells us that the narrator’s mother dies in childbirth.  It’s ironic that the author would choose to title this book as such when her mother is dead the moment she comes into the world.  How can she possibly write about her mother when she never even knew her?

From what I’ve read so far (part one), I can say that I like this book. First off, the font size is such a relief after reading Crusoe.  Secondly, I like the way Kincaid narrates her life.  She is gradually aging but everything is so subtle that she goes from an infant to a seven year old within a few pages.  She only describes the noteworthy moments in her childhood; I think this is effective because it lets the reader see how she is as a person and whether or not her characterization changes as she matures.

The thing she repeats the most is the idea of love. As a young child in school, she writes letters to her father letting her know that she loves him, but then late confesses that she’s really writing to her mother- but how could she love her mother? she wonders. She never even met her.  Her teacher tells her that she yells at her because she loves her and that the narrator is mistaking love for hate.  Kincaid writes that it is hard to distinguish the two because they often look so similar.

Another character that clearly does not love her is her stepmother- who in fact, tried to kill her once by giving her a poisoned necklace.  The one person who is supposed to love her (her father) does not portray it very well.  He left her with his laundry for some odd years before coming to get her after he remarries.  He is cold and hard to read (but maybe that’s because that’s the face he needs to wear as a policeman) and does not exhibit love in any way that suggests he cares for his daughter as a person.  Of course he cares for her as a daughter because he gives her a place to live and food to eat and encourages her to pursue an education.  However, all of this means nothing when there is no human contact between the two.  As far as I can tell, they probably didn’t even have conversations for more than five minutes.

I cannot help but feel bad for this girl.  However, she comes off as a strong independent individual who does not seem to be affected by most of the things in life.  When she was living with the laundry lady and her father stopped visiting her, she questioned her father’s whereabouts but did not look further into it.  When she broke the laundry lady’s plate, she did not apologize because she didn’t feel bad and even after her punishment she did not feel bad. (Although, she admits that she only felt sorry a long while after).  She seems to be a very stoic person who is not as easily affected by the difficulties of life as another seven year old girl would be.  And for this I cannot help but admire her.

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