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Sample Autograph Signature: Jamaica Kincaid

Caribbean-American novelist and educator. Jamaica Kincaid was born Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson in 1949 in St. John's, Antigua. She never knew her father, a taxi driver, and was raised by her mother and a stepfather, a carpenter. Her mother was the daughter of a Carib Indian woman and a half-Scots, half-African policeman. At the age of 13 she was taken out of school and apprenticed to a seamstress when her third half-brother was born and her stepfather's illness prevented him supporting them. While her mother had taught her to read at age of 3 and had previously encouraged her academically, she felt her mother had abandoned her to servant hood. In June 1965, her mother sent her to work as an au pair to a wealthy family in Scarsdale, NY to help the support the family, but she refused to send money home. She resented her new servant role because she had much higher aspirations, felt confused and disoriented in her new environment, and felt betrayed and abandoned by her family. She left Scarsdale after several months, but did night classes at Westchester Community College before moving to New York City. Here she became an au pair for an Upper East Side family for the next 3 years, during which time she earned a high school diploma, and studied photography at the New School for Social Research. She left this position for a secretarial job before winning a full-scholarship to Franconia College in New Hampshire, but returned to New York in 1973 after about 2 years. She changed her name and supported herself with a series of jobs while seeking free-lance work from magazines. Her first published piece was a 1973 interview with Gloria Steinem for Ingénue for whom she continued to write before joining the The Village Voice as a music critic. In 1976, Kincaid was hired as a staff writer by William Shawn, editor of The New Yorker, a position she held until 1995 when new management forced her to leave. In 1979, Kincaid married Shawn's son, Allen, a composer and Bennington College professor, with whom she had 2 children. They moved to Vermont in 1985 when both were offered teaching positions at Bennington. They later divorced, but she remains in Bennington and continues to write while serving as a visiting professor at Harvard University. Kincaid first book was a short story collection, At the Bottom of the River, published in 1983 for which she won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts. This was followed the novels Annie John (1985); Annie, Gwen, Lilly, Pam, and Tulip (1986); A Small Place (1988); Lucy: A Novel (1990) which was a finalist for the National Book Award as was The Autobiography of My Mother (1996); and Mr. Potter (2002). She has also written non-fiction including My Brother, (1997) which won the Prix Fémina Étranger in 2000, and written or edited seven other non-fiction books. In 2004 she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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