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From Harvey River


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Lorna Goodison is an internationally recognized poet who has published eight books of poetry and two collections of short stories. In 1999 she received the Musgrave Gold Medal from Jamaica, and her work has been widely translated and anthologized in major collections of contemporary poetry. Born in Jamaica, Goodison now teaches at the University of Michigan. She divides her time between Ann Arbor and Toronto.


Family history in Jamaica provides the focus for this memoir as poet Goodison (Controlling the Silver) traces the Harvey roots from the time her great-grandfather, Englishman William Harvey, discovered a well-traveled foot path adjacent to a river circa the last days of slavery. Harvey decides to settle on this land, naming the river after his family, and the plot becomes the family home for generations. Goodison, an award-winning poet and short story writer, tells of her family's fortunes from the early days of English settlement, especially those of her mother, Doris, and her seven siblings. Doris grew up in Victorian comfort as one of the "fabulous Harvey girls," only to experience difficult economic times when her husband, Marcus, loses his auto repair business, causing them to move with their nine children to the slums of Kingston. The appeal of this poetic memoir lies in Goodison's ability to weave Jamaican history and culture into her family saga, capturing the spiritual as well as the factual. Her language-clear, graceful, and at times humorous-enables the reader to see Jamaica through a new pair of eyes. Recommended for large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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, but raised her own nine children in urban Kingston under less coddled conditions. Starting on a supernal note, in which Doris bequeaths this book to her daughter in a dream, the memoir draws a richly textured portrait of a sprawling, well-to-do family, including seven strong-willed siblings with deftly sketched personas. As "plump and pretty as a ripe ox-heart tomato," Doris-whose Anglo-African blood attests to Jamaica's history of interracial dalliance-joins her sisters in the clique of "fabulous Harvey girls," their surnames trumpeting the family's landed-gentry status. But it's a working-class chauffeur-the author's father-who wins Doris's hand in marriage. Borne away from her childhood idyll, she takes in her first moving picture, produces a succession of offspring and plies her domestic skills, especially sewing, gamely weathering the vicissitudes of life outside paradise. Steeped in local lore and spiced with infectious dialect and ditties, Goodison's memoir reaches back over generations to evoke the mythic power of childhood, the magnetic tug of home and the friction between desire and duty that gives life its unexpected jolts. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"Goodison's memoir reaches back over generations to evoke the mythic power of childhood, the magnetic tug of home, and the friction between desire and duty that gives life its unexpected jolts."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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