‘The Circling Hand’ by Jamaica Kincaid

Kincaid, Jamaica 1983

The Circling Hand by Jamaica Kincaid, 1983

The magic trick:

Beautifully describing the changing relationship with ones mother as a girl grows into a teenager

Kincaid does a wonderful job illustrating a girl’s changing relationship with her mother. The narrator begins the story idolizing her mother, and winds up in classic teen-angst mode: sullen, talking back, and shifting her worship onto a classmate.

Kincaid describes vividly the actions and feelings associated with both sides of the transition. She also uses a very memorable scene – involving the titular circling hand – as the breaking point. None of it is new or particularly surprising. But it doesn’t have to be, when the emotions are as real and well-drawn as they are here. And that’s quite a trick on Kincaid’s part.

The selection:

I was about to ask her this when remembered that a few days earlier I had asked in my most pleasing, winning way for a look through the trunk. A person I did not recognize answered in a voice I did not recognize, “Absolutely not! You and I don’t have time for that anymore.” Again, did the ground wash out from under me? Again, the answer would have to be yes, and I wouldn’t be going too far.

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