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And since I no longer needed “Girl,” I stopped reading what I had once declared was the story of my life.
Years later, in one of my periodic fits of cleaning, I found a bruised and battered copy of at the bottom of a box.
The girl’s story was not my story because we had a lot in common.
After all, she’s poor and lives in the Caribbean, while I grew up in a well-heeled town in America.
After I finished, I was sorry that I had waited so long.
Rereading the story, I was struck by Kincaid’s ability to say so much with a mere 681 words, how she created a world with as much detail and depth as short stories far longer than “Girl.” The story manages to convey to readers some of the food eaten in Antigua (pumpkin fritters, tea, salt fish, okra, doukona,bread pudding, dasheen, and pepper pot), the family’s socioeconomic standing and cultural beliefs (“don’t throw stones at blackbirds, because it might not be a blackbird at all”), the connection between respectability and domestic knowledge, and the tense relationship between a mother and her daughter.
Despite these misgivings, I sat down on a pile of clothes and read “Girl” for the first time in probably 15 years.
It is a sweeping list, yet it still doesn’t cover everything Kincaid addresses in the story.
In my rereading of “Girl,” I also realized that I never noticed how transgressive the story is.
I also didn’t have to learn how to grow my own food, fish, or make my clothes to survive.
But what we both had in common was a mother who feared her daughter would descend into promiscuity, not unwillingly.
It’s as if the sentence is discovering itself, discovering how it feels.” “Girl,” one long sentence interrupted by commas and semicolons, heads toward its own contradiction from its very first word.