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Jamaica and Me: The Story of an Unusual Friendship

Atkins, Linda

19 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0375500731 / ISBN 13: 9780375500732
Published by Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A., 1998
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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About this Item

First printing. Signed on title page. The author, a psychoanalyist in NYC, recounts the story of her friendship with a homeless child. Very good plus with small abrasion to ffep. DJ near fine with one tiny tear. 189 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 12126

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Jamaica and Me: The Story of an Unusual ...

Publisher: Random House Inc, Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: 1st Edition.

About this title


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
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.


There are no villains, no heroes, and no neat resolutions in this truthfully ambivalent account of a white psychoanalyst's relationship with a troubled African American girl. The author was a volunteer at Brooklyn's Mercy Hospital in 1986 when she first saw 8-year-old Jamaica, one of the countless children abused and abandoned as crack cocaine devastated America's inner cities. Atkins doesn't soften Jamaica's flinty character: she lies, she steals, she seems incapable of feeling affection for the few adults who try to befriend her; she's also lively, smart, and incredibly needy. The author breaks your heart as she contrasts fleeting moments of happiness (Jamaica winning a prize for scariest Halloween costume at a school for emotionally disturbed children) with continual setbacks as the child-care bureaucracy adds to the girl's turmoil by moving her from one institution to another. Atkins can't give Jamaica the home she so desperately needs, but she persuades a previous foster mother to take a second chance on the ornery child. Five years after the woman says she is taking Jamaica with her to Georgia, the author has not heard from either one. "I hope that one day I will see her again," she writes in conclusion, refusing to prettify a painfully honest narrative with unearned optimism. But Jamaica's furious vitality, so movingly portrayed here, gives hope that she will beat the odds. Atkins puts a wrenchingly human face on a pressing social problem. --Wendy Smith

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