Reading Resolution: “Annie John” by Jamaica Kincaid

2. A book written in Central America/Caribbean: Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid

List Progress: 19/30

Not everyone gets to see themselves presented as an everyman. That position has largely been reserved for straight white cis men, and everyone else’s story is about how they are different from that supposed default. But Annie John, the 1985 novel by Antiguan author Jamaica Kincaid, portrays the everyday life and struggles of a young queer black girl and makes them universal. The eponymous Annie is a normal young woman and her life is fairly unremarkable, but it is portrayed with a care and a sensitivity that make the reader feel like they could be looking back into their own childhood, no matter how different they may be from her.

Annie John is set in the Caribbean island Antigua and follows Annie as she comes of age, with the story anchored around the sometimes-contentious relationship with her mother. She is academically gifted but has little respect for rules or authority. Antigua had just gained independence from England in 1981, and Annie’s upbringing and education straddle lines between Western hegemony and Caribbean native practices and beliefs. When she suffers through a long depression in her early teens, her father turns to Western medicine and her mother turns to obeah women to help her find healing. Her life is made up of dichotomies and contradictions, and growing into a young woman is the journey of learning to balance those aspects.

There is not a great deal of plot in Annie John, but enough style and sensitivity to keep it moving along. It is a part of a literary genre known as “bildungsroman”, or a coming-of-age novel, and there are only so many ways you can tell a realistic story about growing from childhood to adulthood. But buoyed by a short page count and a swift tone, I enjoyed my time with the character and her world. It’s not riveting, but it’s real, and sometimes that is just as important of a story to tell.

Would I Recommend It: Yes, for a fairly relaxed reading experience.

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