Point of View: Jamaica Kincaid Edition

This is how to give advice in the most condescending way possible.


Happy Sunday guys and gals! The piece I want to share today was written for my English class. The assignment was to take an assigned reading and change the point of view, and I chose Jamaica Kincaid’s piece “Girl” to be the prose poem I tamper with. Kincaid’s mother, as shown in her original work (which you can find here x), gave her a copious amount of advice and commands in what feels like an elongated breath, giving it a sense of urgency and obligation. This, and the bitter, frustrated feeling divided by semi-colons, drew me into the life of a young woman at the expense of her mother’s viewpoint.

In changing the point of view, what I wanted to do was encapsulate what I imagined Kincaid’s response to her mother would be. Additionally, I wanted to highlight the condescending style of prose shown without worrying about following all the motifs, such as food and cloth. Enjoy.


Make sure the carpet of knowledge is never pulled out from underneath you; show the positive emotions but never the negative ones or else everyone will police you; this is how to give a firm handshake; this is a list of words that you should never say; this is a list of words you should always say; this is a list of words you should always say to dinner guests; this is a list of words to say if you want a man to carry a box for you; this is a list of types of women other than the respectable kind and the ‘sluts’; dirty hands exist but not if you wash them with spit; this is how to resent your daughter; read the dictionary daily not only for educational purposes, but also to familiarize yourself with the definition of repression; be a woman with an attitude but not a woman with an attitude; remember that anything you chase after runs so be sure to wear the right shoes nobody owns; this is how to suppress a girl who doesn’t sing any Antiguan folk songs in Sunday school; this is how to properly conceal sexuality in order to preserve a reputable front; domestic knowledge doesn’t necessarily lead to productivity or respect; exercise your mind not my body; a community comes and goes but you can’t go window-shopping for daughters; this is how to give advice in the most condescending way possible.

I’ve washed all the dishes on Monday but I couldn’t find the clothespins so they’ll just have to dry by Tuesday; the hot sweet oil cooked the pumpkin fritters to perfection so let’s forget that the oil burned the skin on my calloused hands; I have never squatted when playing marbles but kneeling for so long has made it hard to walk like a lady; it’s hard to walk like a lady when you think I’m so bent on becoming a slut; it’s also hard to focus on hemming my dress when you’re hovering over me, telling me to work faster otherwise I’ll be classified as the slut I’m so bent on becoming; this is how to bully someone I see no need to bully, this is how I talk to my bullies in the same manner I do our dinner guests; this is how to sew a button but not how to buy the buttons or choose the buttons; this is how to sweep a corner and a yard and a whole house but how do I wipe my drippy hypersensitive nose? This is how to set a table for dinner with an important guest but how do I talk to said guest? This is how to smile at someone I don’t like but how will I ever politely tell them I’m uninterested? This is how the baker didn’t let me feel the bread because you told me that I had to wash everyday, even if it was with my own spit, and the baker found that to be unsanitary.

With love, Alyssa

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