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Jamaica Kincaid Receives the 2024 St. Louis Literary Award

by Maggie Rotermund on 04/26/2024
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ST. LOUIS - Renowned Antigua-born author Jamaica Kincaid received the 2024 St. Louis Literary Award on Thursday, April 25.

Writer Jamaica Kincaid, the 2024 St. Louis Literary Award recipient, visited the Missouri Botanical Garden on April 24, 2024. Photo by Sarah Conroy. Launch SlideshowWriter Jamaica Kincaid, the 2024 St. Louis Literary Award recipient, visited the Missouri Botanical Garden on April 24, 2024. Photo by Sarah Conroy.

“I am very honored,” Kincaid told the crowd at the Sheldon Concert Hall Thursday night when presented with the award. “I am grateful for your faith in me and your interest in what I have to say. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

In her works, Kincaid explores themes of colonialism, gender and sexuality, racism, class, and familial relationships. She entranced the crowd with stories of her youth in Antigua and how her mother taught her to read with a biography she herself was reading of Louis Pasteur and sent her to school before she reached age 5, telling Kincaid to lie about her age if anyone asked.

Moderator Maryse Jayasuriya, Ph.D., professor of English at Saint Louis University, reminded Kincaid of an interview from years past in which she’d said she had never met a man quite as impressive as her mother.

“I think of her as a god, not a goddess,” she said of her mother. 

In a Craft Talk Friday morning, Kincaid told the audience a writer cannot care about the audience and how readers consume their work.

“You want to write something that people take seriously,” she said. “You can’t worry if they are taking your work to the beach to read.”

Kincaid came to the United States as a teenager and, as a young woman, began writing columns and stories for Ingénue, The Village Voice, and Ms. Her work has also appeared in The Paris Review and The New Yorker.

Kincaid published her first book in 1983, “At the Bottom of the River,” is a collection of short stories and reflections. She is the author of the novels “Annie John,” “Lucy,” and “See Now Then,” and the more personal books “The Autobiography of My Mother,” “Among Flowers: A Walk in the Himalaya,” and “My Brother,” which explores the death from AIDS of her younger brother. 

The St. Louis Literary Award department in SLU Libraries also includes a Campus Read series, which is open to the public; the Undergraduate Writing Award; Literature & Medicine; Inspired By Arts Showcase for High School and College Students; and the Walter J. Ong S.J. Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research.  

St. Louis Literary Award 

The St. Louis Literary Award is presented annually by the Saint Louis University Libraries and has become one of the top literary prizes in the country. The award honors a writer who deepens our insight into the human condition and expands the scope of our compassion. Some of the most important writers of the 20th and 21st centuries have come to Saint Louis University to accept the honor, including Margaret Atwood, Salmon Rushdie, Eudora Welty, John Updike, Saul Bellow, August Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, Zadie Smith and Tom Wolfe.