Jamaica and Me
The Story of An Unusual FriendshipBook - 1998
At the age of eight, Jamaica has already-- literally--lost her mother (she never knew her father), has slept in New York subway tunnels, and now lives in a welfare hospital. Linda Atkins, who volunteers at the hospital, feels especially drawn to the loner Jamaica--"a skinny, tired, raggedy child with red-rimmed, pitch-black eyes that glared out from angry slits"--and begins to take her on outings, at first to neighborhood parks and then for weekend visits at home. There are good times--Linda teaches the determined, enthusiastic Jamaica to ride a bike and helps her pick out a Halloween mask--but the bad times threaten to prevail: Jamaica often lies, steals from Linda's house, and has outbursts of violence. Linda tries to maintain her friendship with Jamaica through these difficulties and also through those she encounters in the child welfare system: indifferent supervisors, hostile, time-serving staff, the constant shuffling of Jamaica from one institution to another, and the lack of any kind of long-term plan for her future. Never dismissive, Linda treats the system with respect, but she also doubts that it can truly sustain the children assigned to its care. Finally, she undertakes her own search for a permanent home for Jamaica--she is convinced that this is the girl's one hope. Jamaica and Me, the candid story of Linda Atkins's experiences with a single endangered child in New York City--a story in which she assesses her own actions and motives with as much honesty as she applies to the welfare system--sounds an alarm about the state of children in need all over this country, and it asks us to acknowledge their existence and worth and to respond to their heartbreaking predicaments. From Jamaica and Me During one day of Jamaica's visit with me at the shore, the community held its annual children's race on the beach. It was a beautiful day, sunny and cool. The children milled around, some whining about being afraid to run, some demonstrating their prowess to their parents by making quick runs down the beach. Some just sat around looking quiet and scared. Jamaica walked next to me up to the registration table. She looked around and announced the obvious: "There not bein many black kids out here--where are they?" I told her not too many black kids lived here at the beach. Jamaica looked up at me and took her defiant stance: she set a hand on one hip, straightened up her small body, threw back her head, bent one knee as she thrust her foot to the side in front of her, and announced, "I'm goin to beat they white asses." When the start whistle blew, Jamaica took off down the beach in a quick, long-strided gallop. . . . She and three other girls pulled ahead quickly. . . . I hoped she could take the race as just fun, but in fact I had not seen it that way myself. I had seen it as a chance for Jamaica to accomplish something. I knew she stood a chance of doing well. I had pushed her a little, hoping she would have the pleasure of success.
Publisher: New York Random House 1998
Edition: 1st Ed.
Characteristics: 187 p. 22 cm.