By MIRIAM ARANOFF
Annie John (1985), by Jamaica Kincaid, tells the story of a ten-year-old girl from Antigua, an island in the Caribbean. Throughout the book, Annie struggles with managing her desire to cut off, and at the same time to preserve her roots. What makes Annie’s character so attractive is that instead of being drawn to the extremes of love and hate or staying home and running away, Annie lives in the gray area of struggle.
Annie is shocked by the sudden coldness she feels in her mother and the ever-widening distance between herself and her home. As a result, Annie rebels.
She secretly befriends a wild girl and plays marbles against her mother’s wishes. Though Annie’s rebelliousness may seem courageous, from her admiration in class of a photo of Christopher Columbus in chains, to her habit of secretly attending the funerals of strangers so that she could see dead bodies, Annie is constantly filled with inner-conflict.
The book ends with Annie trying to leave home, but the reader is left without knowing if Annie will be happy. The unknown direction that Annie will follow is an appropriate end for a character that is deeply torn about the decisions she makes.
This book is a reflection of the author’s own experience as a girl. Jamaica Kincaid was born in Antigua in 1949. She moved to New York City as a teenager and first worked as a nanny and later a writer for The New Yorker magazine. She is currently a writer and university professor.