Born in St. John’s, Antigua, on May 25, 1949 as Elaine Potter Richardson, Jamaica Kincaid has stamped herself as a significant writer in literature, with over three decades of work to show for it. She has written novels, non-fiction, short fiction, essays, poems, and more literary works that cover various topics from gardening, colonialism, and race, to familial relationships and how they affect sense of self.
She exiled herself after turning 17 and was sent to Scarsdale, New York in 1966. It was during this time that some said Kincaid created her new identity, after fleeing an abusive home and lifestyle in Antigua. She didn’t keep in touch with her family and didn’t have many friends when she left. Ironically, Kincaid had no inspiration to become a writer when she arrived to the U.S.
In 1970, she began to contribute pieces to Ingenue, which was a teen magazine at the time. In fact, her very first published piece was an interview with noted feminist, Gloria Steinem. Three short years after that, she would change her name to Jamaica Kincaid to keep her status anonymous. Once she did this, her literary contacts would work in her favor and land her a job with The New Yorker Magazine, which she became a regular contributor in 1976. This allowed her to publish her first short story, “Girl” in that same magazine.
After “Girl” was published, Kincaid continued to write stories, in which readers would try to link or compare to her life, specifically her Antigua childhood. This was because all of her fictional narratives were centered around a young Caribbean girl, who faced similar battles as Kincaid: a mother whose relationship with the child drastically takes a negative turn, a father who wasn’t around, and other issues. Many readers and critics believe that all of her literary works are heavily influenced by her childhood, since they feel so personal when reading them, to which Kincaid has admitted that her mother impacted her writing the most.
Jamaica Kincaid still writes from time to time from her home in Bennington, Vermont.