Soon after returning from my recent Caribbean vacation, I began reading Jamaica Kincaid’s novel “The Autobiography of My Mother.” Kincaid is from Antigua, and in this book, the Caribbean is a backdrop for the poverty, enslavement and defeat of its native people. After finishing my essay about the life-affirming beauty of the British Virgin Islands, I came across Kincaid’s description of a similar locale. Through her eyes, these mountainous islands look entirely different.
One night Roland and I were sitting on the steps of the jetty, our backs facing the small world we were from, the world of sharp, dangerous curves in the road, of steep mountains of recent volcanic formations covered in a green so humble no one had ever longed for them, of 365 small streams that would never meet up to form a majestic roar, of clouds that were nothing but large vessels holding endless days of water, of people who had never been regarded as people at all; we looked into the night, its blackness did not come as a surprise, a moon full of dead white light traveled across the surface of a glittering black sky…
Jamaica Kincaid, “The Autobiography of My Mother”
Kincaid’s words reminded me that, for many, life in the West Indies is far from a pleasure cruise. They reminded me of the privilege I so often take for granted.