Girl by Jamaica Kincaid you ought to read

Chances are, you’ve already read Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl, first published in The New Yorker here, and later the opening story to Jamaica Kincaid’s first book, At the Bottom of the River. A mother-daughter dialogue with the mother doing most of the talking and the daughter interjecting occasionally, ignored, it’s based on Kincaid’s own life with her mother in Antigua. The mother offers plain instructions on how to behave, on how to do the chores. There’s a beautiful rhythm to the sentences, Wash the white clothes on Monday and put them on the stone heap, that lulls. Then slipped into that is Try to walk like a lady and not like the slut you are so bent on becoming. The mother calls the daughter a slut several more times throughout the piece. Later she offers advice on how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it becomes a child. You should read this once for the shock of the mother’s words, once to let it all sink in, once to try and feel the love the mother must surely feel for the daughter to berate her so awfully, once more to feel the anger the daughter’s going to grow up with. And once just to appreciate those beautiful semicolons.

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