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Jamaica Kincaid (Photo credit: Harper’s Bazaar)
Published: 29 May 2024

Jamaica Kincaid is a world-renowned writer, a Harvard professor, and an avid gardener who’s passing on her plant expertise to Black youth in her new children’s book, An Encyclopedia of Gardening For Colored Children, the first children’s book Kincaid has published in almost 40 years. 

The Antiguan-American author is known for her classic works such as 1996’s The Autobiography of My Mother, Lucy (1990) and A Small Place (1988). She has also published numerous books and essays about gardening and horticulture. In her new storybook, Kincaid provides the ABCs of plant life around the world and their unique and sometimes brutal history.

“I’ve had this idea for a long time. But I couldn’t think of [an illustrator] who would do these things justice,” Kincaid told Harper’s Bazaar. So she connected with Kara Walker, an artist who creates otherworldly watercolor illustrations. Walker developed her own interest in gardening during the pandemic, using Kincaid’s 1999 text My Garden Book as a guide. So when Kincaid reached out to partner on the children’s book, it was a perfect opportunity to combine their shared interests.

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Together, Walker and Kincaid have created a thought-provoking exploration of the plant life that has made up the colonized world.  Kincaid was inspired by the Biblical Garden of Eden and, on a backdrop of Walker’s mesmerizing watercolors, she tells a story about botany, gardening, colonization, and religious themes. 

It’s a storybook with bold illustrations and themes that Kincaid believes will provoke children’s imaginations and knowledge of the world around them. 

“I’ve never shied away from saying what I thought was true,” she said of publishing her new book. “I have never not said in my work what I thought.”


An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children is available for sale now.

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