My Brother by Jamaica Kincaid
“When I was young, younger than I am now, I started to write about my own life and I came to see that this act saved my life. When I heard about my brother’s illness and his dying, I knew, instinctively, that to understand it, or to make an attempt at understanding his dying, and not to die with him, I would write about it.”
So, Jamaica Kincaid has written a small book about the death from AIDS of her youngest brother. At 198 pages, this memoir comes so close to that 200 page minimum for a book project that you might get your teacher to overlook those last two pages. After all, Kincaid is an established literary writer and she has all the stuff your teachers hope you’ll enjoy in literature—a style of her own and the many literary elements you are taught and tested on, especially wonderful figurative language. This book is as much a writing exercise as it is a memoir, as much the story of Kincaid’s love/hate relationship with her mother as her relationship with her brother.
I first came in contact with Kincaid’s writing through The New Yorker, which was regularly publishing her short works. I loved her style and would always check to see if she had something published in the weekly magazine. If not, I would toss it aside to read later. If so, I sat down and immersed myself in the story immediately. That said, I’d also like to note that her style would be a lot of fun to parody, if you should get such an assignment. While everyone else in the class is imitating Hemingway and Faulkner, you can try something like this passage from My Brother:
“It must have been wonderful in Miami then, but I will never really know, I can only repeat what other people said; they said that it was wonderful in Miami and they were glad to be there, or they wanted to be there. But I myself was in Miami, and I found Miami not to be in the tropical zone that I was from, and yet not in the temperate zone where I now live; Miami was in between, but its in-betweenness did not make me long for it. I missed the place I now live in, I missed snow, I missed my own house that was surrounded by snow, I missed my husband, the father of my children, and they were all in the house surrounded by snow. I wanted to go home.”