Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

When her brother Devon died in 1996, Jamaica Kincaid was completing The Autobiography of My Mother. Kincaid’s fictional works are often largely autobiographical. She mixes fiction with nonfiction to produce stories that are not about her own life and family but that mirror her experience. My Brother, then, is a continuation of Kincaid’s literary exploration of her childhood, her unresolved issues with her mother, and her frustration with a lethargic island attitude toward progressive thinking.

Like A Small Place—a nonfiction work that derides colonialism, postcolonialism, tourism and every other ism—My Brother is direct in its pointed criticism of the backward thinking that its author believes continues to shackle the future of Antigua and its native inhabitants. With a convert’s zeal, Kincaid cries loudest and longest over lost opportunities for her homeland.

Deborah E. McDowell, writing in Women’s Review of Books, states, “My Brother is fittingly more about Jamaica Kincaid than about Devon Drew.” Kincaid’s works are exercises in exorcism, expelling old ghosts, casting out old demons that still haunt her despite her attempts to distance herself from them. In an interview with Marilyn Snell published in Mother Jones, Kincaid said, “This is the life I have. This is the life I write about.”