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From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island

1 rating: 3.0
A book by Lorna Goodison

Starred Review. Goodison, an acclaimed poet who received Jamaica's Musgrave Gold Medal in 1999, makes lyrical exposition sing with dulcet island patois in this homage to her mother, Doris, who grew up in the sleepy Eden-like setting of Harvey River, … see full wiki

Tags: Book
Author: Lorna Goodison
Publisher: Amistad
1 review about From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother...

The Fabulous Harvey Girls

  • Jul 18, 2008
  • by
Poet and college professor Lorna Goodison brings a heartwarming story of family life and community in the memoir of her beloved birthplace, Jamaica, in From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island. Goodison's great-grandfather, Englishman William Harvey, and his brother founded and built the community of Harvey River in 1840. William married Frances Duhaney, despite being told that black women were acceptable as concubines but not as wives. Their son, David, was a self-taught lawyer, who served his village for many years acting as legal counsel. His daughter, Doris, Goodison's mother, was one of the "fabulous Harvey Girls."

The five Harvey sisters benefited from their family name; they were respected in the community and were expected to conduct themselves as ladies at all times. One time Doris was bathing in the river and a young man visiting from another town did not give her the privacy required. Well, that young man was called upon by David Harvey, Doris' father, and her brothers, at his relatives' home, and made to understand that the Harvey girls were held in high esteem. When they went into the main town of Lucea, all the young men turned out to gaze upon and win the charms of the sisters. Their maternal grandfather was an Irishman who later came to live with the family in his later years and one of their grandmothers was a Guinea woman who was said to have mystical powers. Such an illustrious ancestral background made for much family folklore, superstitions and unity.

For awhile after Doris married Marcus Goodison, life was good, but when the author was a young girl in the 1930s, the family's fortunes turned and they were forced to move to Kingston to find work. Being in a big city as Kingston was an adjustment for Doris and her status as a Harvey was of no consequence. She was just another poor, young wife and mother trying to keep food on the table and raise her children. Her strength of character, however, would not allow her to give up. She became sought after for her excellent seamstress skills and she was the community mother and mentor to many children. Her children thrived and Lorna, the author, has wonderful memories of a special summer with her grandmother at Harvey River.

This memoir was rich with tradition and beautiful detail. I could see the women washing clothes in the Harvey River and taste the Lucea yams melting in my mouth. Goodison's poetic writing brought the cadence of the language and mannerisms of the people of Harvey River to life. I highly recommend this book to those who enjoy memoirs and especially love reading about different cultures of the Black Diaspora. Rating 4.5

Dera R. Williams
APOOO BookClub

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