Jamaica Kincaid was born in 1949 in Antigua but it can safely be said The New Yorker brought her to life and world attention as a writer. In 1965 she moved to Westchester, N. Y. to be an au pair or as we say in the Philippines, a yaya. She then after leaving this position studied photography at The New School for Social Research and began to write short stories based loosely on her own experiences. Through contacts she made from her writing she ultimately went to work for The New Yorker while frequently publishing short stories in the magazine. She ended up marrying the son of the editor of The New Yorker. She has also written some well regarded novels and works of non-fiction.
I recently purchased a collection of short stories all set in New York City that were first published in the magazine, Wonderful Town: New York Stories from the New Yorker. There are stories by lots of new to be writers, some authors I have read before, and some I am familiar with but have not yet read. I was glad a story by Jamaica Kincaid was in the collection.
It appears little of the work of Kincaid can be read online. All of her New Yorker stories are available only to paid subscribers. Given that I will just post briefly on this story.
This story seems very much based on Kincaid's own experiences. The story is a good account of what it must have been like to move from a tropical island that New Yorkers dream of going to in the winter, to New York City to be a yaya. The story is told in the first person. We can feel the loneliness and isolation the yaya feels. She does not have a lot of work to do as her charges go to school during the day so she can do her college homework during the day. The family is quite affluent and also has a maid, who lets the yaya know her place right away.
The fun in this very well written story is in seeing the yaya struggle to adjust to her new environment. She is torn away from everything she knows.
I think a lot readers in the Philippines, many of whom probably had a yaya as a child or employ one now, might find this story interesting. I know I did.
Please share your experiences with Jamaica Kincaid with us.