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Feb. 14, 2007

Novelist Jamaica Kincaid to Read at Smith College

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Novelist Jamaica Kincaid will open a three-day Pan-Africa conference at Smith College by reading from her short story “Girl” about a young Caribbean grappling with identity issues.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is part of a February series commemorating Black History Month. It will take place Thursday, Feb. 22, from 7 to 9 p.m. in John M. Greene Hall, and audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions after the reading.

Kincaid's reading also kicks off the conference, “Excavating Blackness: Folks, Different and the Same,” organized by the Smith African and Caribbean Student Association.

“This conference asks what is the black community as defined in America and is it exclusive in membership?,” said Danielle I. Charlemagne, conference chair and a member of the Class of 2009. “We believe Jamaica Kincaid can substantially contribute to our learning as we challenge our conceptions of black womanhood.”

Other conference events include the screening of a movie about war and displacement in northern Uganda, Friday, Feb. 23, at 7p.m. at the Mwangi Cultural Center, located off Prospect Street.

Kincaid was born in 1949 as Elaine Potter Richardson on the island of Antigua. She lived with her stepfather, a carpenter, and her mother until 1965 when she was sent to Westchester, New York, to work as an au pair.

In Antigua, she completed her secondary education under the British system (Antigua was a British colony until 1967). She went on to study photography at the New York School for Social Research after leaving the family for which she worked, and also attended Franconia College in New Hampshire for a year. Her first writing experience involved a series of articles for Ingenue magazine. In 1973, she changed her name to Jamaica Kincaid because her family disapproved of her writing.

Kincaid’s titles include “A Small Place,” “Lucy,” “Autobiography of My Mother,” “At the Bottom of the River,” “Annie John,” and “My Brother.” Among the themes that run through her work are the influence of homeland on identity, culture and the desire for independence, the influence of the mother-daughter relationship in shaping female identity and the phenomenon of female bonding.

Through her writing, she befriended George W.S. Trow, a writer for the New Yorker, who began writing "Talk of the Town" pieces about her. As a result, Kincaid met the editor of the magazine, William Shawn, who offered her a job. Kincaid later married Shawn's son, Allen, a composer and Bennington College professor, and they now have two children.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Kristen Cole
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