Jamaica Kincaid was born on May 25, 1949, in the West Indies on the then-British-ruled island of Antigua, Elaine Cynthia Potter Richardson, was the eldest of four children and the only girl. Her family was poor; their home had no electricity, no indoor bathroom, and no running water. She was in charge of the paperwork required by the Public Works Department that assured weekly replacement of the outhouse "tub" and was required to go and get the required daily four or more buckets of water for the house. In addition, she made sure the lamps in the house were clean and filled with kerosene.
She did not meet her biological father until adulthood. For the first nine years of her life she was an only child and had a deep connection to her mother, Annie Richardson. When she was nine, her mother remarried and the first of her three brothers was born. From that moment on, her mother increas-ingly shifted her attention to the younger siblings and the family's privation increased. The resulting conflict and isolation Kincaid experienced from her mother s emotional distancing during that time is a central feature in much of her writing.