The Autobiography of My Mother

Listen to a sample

What to expect

From the recipient of the 2010 Clifton Fadiman Medal comes an unforgettable novel of one woman’s courageous coming of age.

Powerful, disturbing, and stirring, Jamaica Kincaid’s novel is the deeply charged story of a woman’s life on the island of Dominica. Xuela Claudette Richardson, the daughter of a Carib mother and a half-Scottish, half-African father, loses her mother to death the moment she is born and must find her way on her own.

Jamaica Kincaid takes us from Xuela’s childhood in a home where she can hear the song of the sea to the tin-roofed room where she lives as a schoolgirl in the house of Jack La Batte, who becomes her first lover. Xuela develops a passion for the stevedore Roland, who steals bolts of Irish linen for her from the ships he unloads, but she eventually marries an English doctor, Philip Bailey. Xuela’s intensely physical world is redolent of overripe fruit, gentian violet, sulfur, and rain on the road. It seethes with her sorrow, her deep sympathy for those who share her history, her fear of her father, and her desperate loneliness. But underlying all is “the black room of the world” that is Xuela’s barrenness and life without a mother.

The Autobiography of My Mother is a story of love, fear, loss, and the forging of character, an account of one woman’s inexorable evolution, evoked in startling and magical poetry.

Critics Review

  • “Jamaica Kincaid’s writing is often described as lyrical. Miles brings that poetry to listener’s ears, where it sings…Miles continually brings listeners back to Xuela’s stark reality and her will to survive.”

  • “Fierce, incantatory…Lyrical…Powerful and disturbing.”

    New York Times
  • “A book that comes both to haunt and to dazzle us…[Kincaid] writes like an angel: with enviable lucidity and precision and a lyric touch that frequently aspires to the condition of poetry.”

    Boston Globe
  • “Kincaid, always an eloquent stylist, makes this story of a simple woman extraordinary,…filling her prose with rich, poetic detail…An unforgettable account of singular survival.”

    San Francisco Chronicle
  • “[A] disturbing, compelling novel set on the island of Dominica.”
  • “More argument than novel, it’s the drama of the personal voice that makes it a spellbinding narrative…Lyrical, brave, defiant.”

    Booklist (starred review)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to get tailored content recommendations, product updates and info on new releases. Your data is your own: we commit to protect your data and respect your privacy.