To say that he was gay or homosexual was something he said about himself; to say that he was an auntie-man was something people said about him. She understood him better when he was the person people said something about, not when he was the person who said something about himself.
— Jamaica Kincaid, My Brother (p. 147)
I read this book over a year ago and just remembered having copied down these lines. The book, a record of what Kincaid remembers, knows, thinks, believes and wonders about her subject, and always explicit about the thought process responsible for her words, makes me think that if everyone wrote and spoke like this, the unprecedented clarity of conversations would slowly erode all pathologies. So too when she writes of “the people who should have made me feel that the love of people other than them was suspect” (p. 162).
When approached with the momentum of the page her best lines create an empathy so sudden and sharp that it can’t help but fade a degree upon closer scrutiny. The writing, dissociated from time and consciousness, breaks down into clauses and punctuation. Where did she go? But all that’s needed is one more steady pass through the text, to return to the moment that startled me the first time.