Although it has the cadence of poetry, "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid was first published as a short story in The New Yorker magazine on June 26, 1978. The primary speaker is a mother who is giving advice to her daughter on how to behave. Some of the advice is practical, some is religious, some has to do with the customary roles of women and men, and some is extremely critical and derogatory. The mother and daughter are from Antigua in the West Indies, which is where Kincaid was brought up.
Concerning practical matters, the mother tells the daughter how to do laundry, how to cook, how to select fresh bread, and how to sew buttons, iron shirts, hem dresses, and select material to make a blouse. She also instructs her daughter on how to make medicine not only to cure a cold, but also to bring on an abortion.
The mother and daughter are ostensibly Christian but also have roots in conflicting local cultures. This is evident when the mother instructs her daughter not to "sing benna in Sunday school." Benna is a type of sexually suggestive regional folk music that the mother feels would be inappropriate on the Christian holy day of Sunday.
The girl must be coming into adolescence because the mother gives advice on how she should act when interacting with men. The mother is also harshly critical of her daughter when she warns her not to "behave like the slut you are so intent on becoming."
The mother is the speaker throughout most of the piece, but the daughter interjects as another speaker in two places. First of all, when the mother tells her not to sing benna at Sunday school, the girl replies, "but I don't sing benna on Sundays at all and never in Sunday school." Near the end of the poem, when the mother is giving advice on how to squeeze bread, the daughter says, "But what if the baker won't let me feel the bread?" The mother's reply indicates that whether the baker lets her touch the bread depends on what kind of a woman she becomes.