By Jamaica Kincaid
Genre: Postcolonialism, Realistic Fiction
Reading Level: 6th grade
Interest Level: 9th-12th grade
Teaser: Annie is not like other girls, she likes to go to funerals and play marbles.
Summary: The story starts with Annie John, a ten-years-old, who lives on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. She is very close to her mother. She gets good grades in school and she is the class prefect. She becomes closer friends with a girl at school named Gwen. In fact, she loves Gwen very much. Annie starts getting frustrated with her mom because of how unsympathetic she is being towards Annie’s moods. She begins to rebel against her mom by lying about staying after school when she is really going to see and play with the Red Girl, a girl who is known around the community for having an uncaring mother. Annie and her mother are already having so many problems and disagreements at home. The story follows Annie up until the age of 17 where she sets off to England to get a good job.
Information about the Author: Wikipedia describes Kincaid as, “Jamaica Kincaid (born May 25, 1949) is an Antiguan-American novelist, essayist, gardener, and gardening writer. She was born in St. John’s, Antigua, which is part of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda. She lives in North Bennington, Vermont, during the summers and teaches at Claremont McKenna College inClaremont, California as the “Josephine Olp Weeks Chair and Professor of Literature” as well as the “Professor of African and American studies in Residence” at Harvard during the academic year. Kincaid is an award-winning writer whose work has been both praised and criticized for its subject matter because her writing largely draws upon her own life and her tone is often perceived as angry. In response, Kincaid counters that many writers also draw upon personal experience, and thus to describe her writing as autobiographical and angry is not valid criticism.”
Critical Evaluation: At first, I doubted if I should consider this a postcolonial book. However, from the setting, the language, and the private school that Annie attended, this book is still about the affects of colonizers on the colonized. It is just strongly focused on Annie John becoming a woman. One concern I had with the book is that I am not sure that I consider Annie John a reliable narrator. At one point in the novel, Annie describes her sickness in a way that suggests that she would not have been awake to see certain things that she claimed happened.
Curriculum Ties: Postcolonialism, History of the Caribbean
Booktalk Ideas: Write a paragraph about Annie as a narrator. Was she reliable or were there things going on that went over her head.
Challenge Issues: Imperialism, Racism, Sexuality
Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association, Reading Group Guide for the Book
Why Did I Pick This: I picked Annie John because I think that it is important for teens and students to know the amount of influence that colonizers such as England and France had on the history of so many countries.
Kincaid, J. (1985). Annie John. New York City: Hill & Wang Publishing.