by Jamaica Kincaid

Paper Book, 2002




New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2002.


Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to America to work as an au pair for a wealthy couple. She begins to notice cracks in their beautiful faade at the same time that the mysteries of own sexuality begin to unravel. Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new heroine who is destined to win a place of honor in contemporary fiction.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Elizabeth.Michele
This was an assignment for my contemporary lit class in college. Although I didn't enjoy it, I did find the character of Lucy to be a woman of strong if not unusual ideas and beliefs.
LibraryThing member kishields
Lucy is an insightful novel of a young au pair's first year away from her Caribbean home. As an au pair to a wealthy family she learns of first-world problems and gradually begins to resolve her own feelings about her past and her family, particularly her mother--and begins to break away to create a home and a life of her own.… (more)
LibraryThing member ahef1963
Lucy is a young woman from Antigua who has made her way to New York City, where she is an au pair, caring for four young girls, the daughters of a wealthy couple. Lucy is studying nursing in the evenings, making friends, taking lovers. She is miserable in New York. It is cold; she is homesick; she is tired of hearing rich people talk about nothing as if it were everything. The book follows Lucy's first year in New York, her awakenings, her daily life, her enthusiasms, her plans.

Lucy is not likeable for at least half of this short book. She is full of anger and contempt, not just for rich people, but for everything she encounters. She deliberately hurts people with the barbs of her tongue. She scorns the kind gestures and the confidences of her female employer, Mariah.

I hated her. I hated Lucy for her nastiness, her anger, her refusal to relax her guard. She was a black girl from a tropical island who'd been given a chance to better herself, and she just didn't care. "She should be more grateful", I thought, several times.

Do you hear it? I heard it. I thought she should be grateful. I wanted the young black girl to be better behaved because she had a job as a domestic worker, a servant by another name, for a family who treated her well. I wanted her to be nicer to the white family she worked for. I didn't know that white privilege runs through my veins, that casual racism is part of my makeup. In this week of Harry and Meghan's interview with Oprah, I was proud that I didn't treat black people any different than white people, people with skin like mine. I was wrong.

So this book was an eye-opener. I was not prepared to find my thoughts about race were suspect. It was the first warm day of not-quite spring. There was a warm breeze. It was a nice day in my all-white neighbourhood. The things you learn when you read. Do all white people feel like I do? Is it a sign of growth that I now recognize that my inner monologue is not as lofty as I believed yesterday, that nice warm day? Or is that just more white privilege, another way of saying "I understand the problem of racism because I've been woken up by a novella"? I don't know. Food for thought. I have much to learn, and much to unlearn too.

The book got four stars because I was profoundly uncomfortable with the vivid sex scenes. They were very well written; they aroused me, and I felt ashamed for the sensations of my body during a description of sex involving a nineteen year old girl.
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