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Kincaid's short fiction has appeared in The Paris Review and The New Yorker, where her novel Lucy was originally serialized. Her first book, At the Bottom of the River (1983), was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Awards she has received include the Center for Fiction's Clifton Fadiman Medal, the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, the Prix Femina Étranger, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Award.
Her novels are loosely autobiographical, though Kincaid has warned against interpreting their autobiographical elements too literally: "Everything I say is true, and everything I say is not true. You couldn't admit any of it to a court of law. It would not be good evidence." Her work often prioritizes "impressions and feelings over plot development" and often features conflict with both a strong maternal figure and colonial and neocolonial influences. Excerpts from her non-fiction book A Small Place were used as part of the narrative for Stephanie Black's 2001 documentary, Life and Debt.