Book review of An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children by Jamaica Kincaid

Book review of An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children by Jamaica Kincaid

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Both an art book and a kind of poetic herbarium, An Encyclopedia of Gardening for Colored Children defies easy classification. That’s for the benefit of readers, though: Untethered to the conventions of traditional genres, writer Jamaica Kincaid is free to create something brand new, and perusing the pages feels like true discovery. Kincaid’s tone shifts from erudite to casual with a buoyancy that will make readers want to follow her thoughts through till the end. In the section that begins “O is for Orange,” Kincaid writes of the many names and etymological roots for oranges, and how the Earth is indifferent to the names we assign its fruits: “The vegetable kingdom persists and will most likely do so when we are no longer here to name and identify it.” The book’s colorful watercolors are by celebrated artist Kara Walker, and they’re treated as equal partners to Kincaid’s prose. In Walker’s hands, the illustration for poppies includes carnivalesque swirls of opium and bagels, a woman in seductive repose and a man hanging his head in despair. This niche but precious volume feels outside of time, and will be a treat to gardeners, children, artists, poets and book lovers alike.

 



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