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Black Women, West Indian Networks, and US immigration


Black Women, West Indian Networks, and US immigration

Jamaica Kincaid at the Sweden Book Fair, 2019, photographed by Niklas Maupoix (Courtesy of Flickr/Bokmässan: Göteborg)

“I was numb, but it was from not knowing just what this new life would hold for me.” —Jamaica Kincaid, Lucy

On April 12, critically acclaimed Antiguan-American novelist, Jamaica Kincaid will be honored with The Paris Review’s prestigious 2022 Hadada Award celebrating her lifetime achievement as a writer on themes as diverse as family, poverty, and colonialism. As publisher Mona Simpson described in the December 2021 announcement of the award’s honoree, “I can’t think of another writer whose voice contains such intensities of rage and love. It is a sound incantatory, biblical, and full of music.” Throughout her over forty-year career as a writer for The New Yorker, published author, and professor of literature, Kincaid, born Elaine Potter Richardson in St. Johns, Antigua, W.I. on May 25, 1949, based many of her short stories and novels on her life. Her youth in Antigua and adulthood in America shaped the storylines and themes of many of her world-renowned books, including A Small Place, Annie John, and Lucy. Moreover, Kincaid’s literature has specifically given a voice to Black West Indian women who came to the U.S. as underappreciated laborers and set a trend for sociologists and historians to investigate their condition of “alien citizenship” from an intersectional point of view.

Kincaid’s 1990 novella, Lucy, was semi-autobiographical and historical in recounting the immigrant experiences of Black West Indian women following the passage of the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 that eliminated America’s immigration quota system. In the narrative, Lucy is a nineteen-year-old Black woman who leaves her broken family in the Caribbean to live in America and ultimately work as a nanny for a wealthy white family. Lucy’s story provides readers with a humanized account of a nonwhite, female immigrant. Lucy experiences mundane things like choking from polluted New York City air as she descends from the plane and feels the cold of winter for the first time, along with…

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