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Autobiography of My Mother Paperback – January 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452274664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452274662
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #315,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"My mother died at the moment I was born, and so for my whole life there was nothing standing between myself and eternity," writes Jamaica Kincaid in this disturbing, compelling novel set on the island of Dominica. Born to a doomed Carib woman and a Scottish African policeman of increasing swagger and wealth, narrator Xuela spends a lifetime unanchored by family or love. She disdains the web of small and big lies that link others, allowing only pungent, earthy sensuality--a mix of blood and dirt and sex--to move her. Even answering its siren call, though, Xuela never loses sight of the sharp loss that launched her into the world and the doors through which she will take her leave.

From Publishers Weekly

Kincaid's third novel (after Annie John) is presented as the mesmerizing, harrowing, richly metaphorical autobiography of 70-year-old Xuela Claudette Richardson. Earthy, intractably antisocial, acridly introspective, morbidly obsessed with history and identity, conquest and colonialism, language and silence, Xuela recounts her life on the island of Dominica in the West Indies. In Kincaid's characteristically lucid, singsong prose, Xuela traces her evolution from a young girl to an old woman while interrogating the mysteries of her hybrid cultural origins and her parents, who failed to be parents: her mother died during childbirth; her often absent father, a cruel and petty island official, cultivates a veneer of respectability ("another skin over his real skin"), rendering him unrecognizable to his daughter. At 14, Xuela undertakes an affair with one of her father's friends, becomes pregnant and aborts the child. Experiencing that trauma as a rebirth ("I was a new person then"), she inaugurates a life of deliberate infertility, eventually becoming the assistant to a European doctor, whom she later marries. Xuela's Dominica, two generations after slavery, is a "false paradise" of reckless fathers and barren matrilinear relations, of tropical ferment, fecundity, witchcraft and slums, whose denizens resemble the walking dead. With aphoristic solemnity at times evocative of Ecclesiastes, Kincaid explores the full paradoxes of this extraordinary story, which, Xuela concludes, is at once the testament of the mother she never knew, of the mother she never allowed herself to be and of the children she refused to have. 75,000 first printing; major ad/ promo; author tour; translation, first serial, dramatic rights: Wylie, Aitken & Stone.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Jamaica Kincaid's works include, Mr Potter, The Autobiography of My Mother, and My Brother, a memoir. She lives in Bennington, Vermont.

Customer Reviews

I didn't like any of the characters and it was too long and drawn out, with no foreseeable plot.
SPHWIG
Perhaps for those people who have always felt secure in their place in life, and surrounded by love on all sides, Kincaid's book is too harsh and hard to relate to.
traylor@cats.ucsc.edu
Did not really get lost in there book....found it boring....and I really wanted to stop reading it!
Natalya olivo

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 60 people found the following review helpful By traylor@cats.ucsc.edu on December 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I have to speak up, because I feel that this book is being unfairly trashed. I stumbled across one of the chapters of this book in a collection, and I was so taken aback that I had to rush out and get the complete novel. I think that that Jamaica Kincaid's writing is so beautiful and poetic that she could be writing about anything and I would read it. But she also tells a very interesting and important story. Xuela is a mixed-race, motherless girl who does not receive love from anyone, and must survive by loving and celebrating her self. Perhaps for those people who have always felt secure in their place in life, and surrounded by love on all sides, Kincaid's book is too harsh and hard to relate to. But for those of us who have had times we when we felt so alone that we literally had to become our own mother and/or our own best friend, Kincaid's novel is a testimony to our experience. A great book.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Having read this title while vacationing in Jamaica, (even though placed in Dominica and the author grew up in Atigua)I was entirely able to understand Xuela. Many children are born out of wedlock, though the fathers still are involved with their children. Xuela is an extreme, but not implausible, case of emotional detachment. Everything in the book, from her father's corruption, to encountering the stevedore during a downpour came to life in my reading experience. Be forewarned, Xuela is not a likeable character, and her physical self-love may be offensive to some readers. But Jamaica Kincaid's blunt and honest portrayal of a hardened woman is undeniably hard to forget.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Chuen Ng on May 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I think more readers should read this in context of Jamaica Kincaid's own personal life, especially regarding her torn relationship with her mother. It would then become extremely touching, as Kincaid really writes this to save her own living. While other reviewers have found this book to be harsh or dirty in some sense, we should gain the sense that this narrator is really at a loss for love, that there is so little to love, but was able to find love in herself.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Jamaica Kincaid's work always provokes sentiment for me. As a fellow Caribbean native, she describes some deep darks truths about people. . .truths that are consistent only among Caribs as they are influenced by thier social and cultural norms.In this novel, the mother's character, at parts, seemed much like my own mother: Having a dream of a better existence, but having it crushed by a woman whose dreams have also been diminished. And thus, a vicious cycle within a society of women who never seem to truly live; instead, only exist to raise other crushed little girls to yield even more unfulfilled woman.

Don't look for any made-up or whimsical fantasies here. You will find yourself precisely where little secrets lie. . .in places you will only visit by way of Kincaid's chariot.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "neeterskeeter27" on November 15, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Autobiography of My Mother is not an autobiography at all, and it is not even solely about a mother. It is actually a novel about a woman whose mother died when she was being born. This first life event, which is also the first event the narrator tells the reader about in the story, is a powerful force that shapes the narrator's life.
Not only does narrator (Xuela) not have a mother, but she feels that she does not actually have a country, a homeland. She lives on the island of Antigua, which is only twelve miles long and nine miles long. The culture of her people was stolen by their English colonizers, and the only culture they now know is that of England.
In my opinion, there are times in the book when the narrator is self-pitying and repetitive. I do think, however, that this is in keeping with her character. The book is written as if Xuela is sitting down with the reader and telling him or her her life story, and Xuela would definitely be a character who would repeat and overemphasize the bad parts just so the person listening would get the point.
I also found fault with the narrator because she was very hyprocritical. She critized her father's actions and attitude about life, but then she acted in simliar ways and had a simliar attitude. The one positive aspect about the main character is that she is a very strong woman who is not afraid to deviate from her society's acceptable ways of behaving.
I was surprised that I liked this book so much when I did not like the narrator. I think it is because Kincaid had such an integrity when it came to writing about the main character. She presented all aspects, positive and negative, and didn't only show her in a good light. All aspiring authors can learn a lesson in characterization from reading this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Joseph on February 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
My feelings are very mixed about this book. There is no doubt that Kincaid has the ability to weave together beautiful and thoughtful moments. However, I had a difficult time staying interested in the book.
I understand the book to be written in the style of the characters history, experiences and misfortunes . A child raised without love, who grows into a woman without the ability to love. Life without love becomes a life filled with philosophical insight on human behavior, love and death.
Overall, the main character's inability to rise above an emotional flat line kept me disconnected, which prevents me from recommending this book with too much enthusiasm. I didn't feel that the character's description of the events matched her bleak emotional landscape.
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