Guernica has an issue devoted to race* in America this month with some really great essays and fiction**, including an interview with Jamaica Kincaid that I’ve now read several times. I’ve read Kincaid’s fiction (I love her novels Lucy and A Small Place) but had no idea of her personal/individual voice; she comes across in the interview with an honest and glittering intelligence and a large measure of humor. She moves through a lot of excellent topics in the interview (especially related to race in literature and women’s writing, and history and politics) so it’s worth reading the entire thing, but this particular question and answer has remained with me:

Guernica: You’ve often said you write because you have to. But I wonder if you’re able to articulate more specifically what it is you’re trying to accomplish when you write? What it is you’re trying to achieve.

Jamaica Kincaid: When I start to write something, I suppose I want it to change me, to make me into something not myself. And while I’m doing it, I really have the feeling that this time, at the end of it, I will be other than myself. Of course, every time I end a book, I look down at myself and I’m just the same. I’m always disappointed that I’m just the same, but not enough to never do it again! I get right back up and I start something else, and I think this time–this time—I really will be transformed into something other than this tawdry, ordinary thing, sitting on the bed and drinking cold coffee. When I write a book, I hope to be beyond mortal by the time I’m finished.

Read the entire interview here.

*I dislike using the word race when talking about people, but Guernica uses it so I follow suit. And I realize it is difficult to find a substitute, especially in titles. “Ethnicity in America” doesn’t necessarily have the same impact, does it?

**And do not miss Rae Paris’s The Forgetting Tree. It is incredible.