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From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island
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ConnorD | 181 comments Any volunteers to lead this discussion thread?


Donald | 126 comments Found this interesting biography on Lorna Goodison at University of Minnesota

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages...


Donald | 126 comments Just started reading this book now, hope to have some members joining in discussions soon


Donald | 126 comments I have now read this book and hope there are few people who have too? Anyone else read this yet?

What did you think about the political context in which the story of Lorna Goodison's family of Harvey River is told? Do you think she went far enough in contextualizing the slavery, and the role Jamaica has played more broadly in keeping diaspora issues Africanized?
I would like to hear members views on this


Beverly Donald wrote: "I have now read this book and hope there are few people who have too? Anyone else read this yet?

What did you think about the political context in which the story of Lorna Goodison's family of Har..."


I am going to read this book. I have gotten behind in my reading. While I am not a fan of memoirs I will be reading this one for several reasons. I have read some of the author's fiction work. I am also of Jamaican descent. The author and I are only a couple of years apart so our mothers were probably born around the same time - am interested in learning about her mother's history.


Beverly Donald wrote: "I have now read this book and hope there are few people who have too? Anyone else read this yet?

What did you think about the political context in which the story of Lorna Goodison's family of Har..."


Hi Donald -

Not quite sure what you mean by "went far enough with contextualizing the slavery and Jamaica's role in keeping Diaspora issues Africanized".

Can you share a couple of your thoughts on these issues - I think I may have an idea on what you mean but want to make sure?

One of the reasons I am not too fond of the memoir genre is that the author gets to write about what they want to share with the reader - which may not be what the author is wanting to hear. And the author can make the topic as broad or as narrow as they want to be.

This book is a memoir/tribute to her mother (and her family story) that goes back 4 generations from the author. I think she was successful in writing an engaging tribute about her mother and the issues/people who influenced her life.


Donald | 126 comments Beverly wrote: "Donald wrote: "I have now read this book and hope there are few people who have too? Anyone else read this yet?

What did you think about the political context in which the story of Lorna Goodison'..."


Hi Beverly,
Thanks for the comment. I agree it is a great account about her family. Real interestin and enjoyed reading this book. Also about the life in Harvey River and then the realities of city living (found the contrast interesting, sobering)

I guess you're right that memoirs / autobios are about what is important to the author. And so you really do get that perspective and can perhaps through the text see what's important to the author and or family

I really do appreciate history and political analysis in autobiographies though - hence one of my favorite genres - when the author is able to reflect on the past, giving their views and understandin about their experiences against a broader context. And looking back, ability to speak of the impact of what happened then, on what life is like in that place(s) today.

Honestly, that is what I was hoping to read about (so given I was biased) I guess it was more difficult because although this is autobio/memoir it is more about the mother and siblings than it is about her. If her life life was more part of the book, perhaps she would have more reflections on this.

One of gifts Jamaica brought to the world was reggae and very socially and politically conscious musicians, like Marley, Cliff, Tosh - so I expected more considered reflection if you look at the time period covered.
Must say also found the reflections on Rastafarianism scant and even a lil superficial. But then that's just me and my own bias. These are two things that are strongly identified with Jamaica around the world - so the impact is global.

So in the end I agree with you when you say it was a successful memoir/tribute to her mother (and her family story) that goes back 4 generations.

I am also at a disadvantage perhaps as I have not read any of her other books. The connection to the story of her family might have been stronger for me if had known her work.

Regards, Don


Beverly Don -

I think there are a number of reasons you did not get the reflections on the Rastafarian movement and reggae music that you were looking for.

I think the time frame is not right - the majority of the time period of this book to me was the 1930s - 1960s. The economic and political issues were the effect of the worldwide depression on the Jamaican economy in the 1930s, the budding independence movement to be an independent country. While the Rastafarian movement started in the 1930s it was and still is a small percentage of Jamaicans. It is also a way of life. It became more well-known when connected to reggae and then also reggae become commercialized and much more a global product. There is no doubt that Bob Marley was a musical genius which helped to elevate reggae and the Rastafarian movement (along with others). When reggae was started up in the late 1960s - it was mostly a young people's thing. I remember being in Jamaica in the early 1960s and the music for young people was the ska and rock steady.

Also while we may not consider Goodison's family middle class by American standards - they certainly would not be considered economically disadvantage. Their move to Kingston was because they did not want to accept the conditions the grandmother laid out and why the communal bathroom and kitchen was not what they were use to - they dealt with it and quickly moved on. Marcus got a job with the telephone company which was a "prize" job, they were literate and educated and when as soon as possible moved to better living quarters.

On both sides - paternal and maternal - Goodison's parents both belonged to a buffer group - between the creole group and the economically disadvantaged which often gave their privilege for getting jobs, education and their status in Jamaican society. This was often the group that started migrating to England, Canada & US thus in a way creating a drain on Jamaica.


ConnorD | 181 comments Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. Look forward to add this discussion


Beverly Don -

Here are a couple of books that might be more of what you were looking for:

Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley by Christopher John Farley

No Woman No Cry: My Life With Bob Marley by Rita Marley

Catch a Fire: The Life of Bob Marley by Timothy White If you read this book make sure it is the updated one for the 25th anniversary of Marley's death.


Donald | 126 comments Beverly wrote: "Don -

Here are a couple of books that might be more of what you were looking for:

Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley by Christopher John Farley

[book:No Woman ..."


Thanks Beverly - those are all great books


message 12: by Diane (last edited Feb 19, 2014 12:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Brown (Diane_Brown) | 38 comments Beverly wrote: "Don -

I think there are a number of reasons you did not get the reflections on the Rastafarian movement and reggae music that you were looking for.

I think the time frame is not right - the major..."


I loved this book and reflected much on my own life growing up in a large family - and understand the buffer concept to some degree. I really liked the book because it showed us the other story of Jamaica that we hardly get to hear.

I understand Don's perceptions to some degree. For Africans living around the world Jamaica presents a place where attempts to stamp "African" in trying to define itself. Reggae & Ska are a black thing, and the impact can be felt widely across the world. It has a significant place in Africa and diaspora in stimulating thought on African-ness. So I can understand why a reflection on this is important

Personally also cringed a little at the characterisation of reggae because its context was missed (my opinion anyway)

But Beverly's explanation about "buffer" and middle class would in my view explain this


message 13: by Diane (last edited Feb 19, 2014 01:45AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Brown (Diane_Brown) | 38 comments ConnorD wrote: "Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. Look forward to add this discussion"

Connor do not expect to find much in the way of cricket. For Beverly and Don, you would need to understand what the West Indian Cricket meant to black people in oppression around the world - especially in South Africa where the ties between WI and SA are very strong.

As a South African I got to follow WI cricket because in a time when there was much oppression and not much wrt black achievement on a global scale, the WI cricketing team were more than just heroes. They let us believe that a different world is possible for the African. Players like Courtney Welsh, Devon Malcolm, Michael Holding born around this time or before the author, in Jamaica, were celebrated and embraced by us as black people. But it is the team together, highly politicised and taking public and unpopular stands against injustice and racism in South Africa that ignited a passion in us all. These players were born into this society. So perhaps would have loved to see the conditions that gives rise to such "self-honouring" black icons.

Today I support the South African team, and like many of my generation each time we watch WI play we feel deeply about it - I mean really deeply! When Chris Gayle breaks records we celebrate because of the connection to Jamaica, WI and Pro-African / pro-black stance. The impact is massive. My generation and the next knew these players better than we knew our own.

The question then becomes what kind of social and political factors were at play in that part of the world that gives rise to a Chris Gayle, Asafa Powell, Jmmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Shelly Anne Frazer, Patrick Ewing, Grace Jones, the famous bobsled team ..
And how did the WI as a whole create Vivian Richards - I mean really? With such a self confidence and a deep belief in the team he led, who excelled and made all the teams in the world fear him (as an individual, and leader of a dynamic team of 100% blackness). Who batted without a helmet and set the cricketing world alive. And who spoke publicly and led his team in protest against playing in an apartheid South Africa? What creates that?

Although African Americans displayed this excellence and confidence on a global level, very few actually used it for advancement of the African/black condition. (Except of course people like Mohammed Ali, Jon Carlos, etc)

The USA basket ball team was really as black as the WI Cricket team, but it never took a stand against colonialism, apartheid - although we admired them and knew all their names, it was never on the scale that we embraced Jamaica and the WI

So for us, when we read a book that goes through so many generations we salivating to find out - what created this phenomenon

It is from this society too that reggae and all the music forms that came before it was born.


Beverly Diane wrote: "ConnorD wrote: "Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. Look forward to add this discu..."

As you can imagine - the answers are complex, individual, and host of other factors. Some people are apolitical (or not as political as others), some are not fully aware of the political/social situations, some learn to work within the status quo, and many others so small things that usually do not get the attention (often because they do not have the public stage to make broader statements).

I can understand the reasons for wanting to read about what was happening in Jamaica and how and what was happening in a broader context. But that was not necessarily what this book was about.

I understand about the WI cricket team and their being outspoken. And there is also a connection touchpoint for Jamaica and SA with GB.
There were not these touchpoints with the US Blacks.

At times there are only so many battles that you can fight and at times you need to choose which battles to fight when.

But From Harvey River - is not a political book. This was a book about the author's memoirs of her mother and who her mother was.
And not every person feels or is affected my oppression the same way.
There are other books that touch on this subject.

There was even very little mention in the book regarding Jamaica as it moved towards independence.


ConnorD | 181 comments Beverly wrote: "Diane wrote: "ConnorD wrote: "Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. Look forward to ..."

Am only half way through the book but like this discussion so far. Diane I realised soon into the book that it would present a very different picture of how we see Jamaica. But it does tell a good story of the family.

It makes me think that we all look for different things in a book and Don is right perhaps if you know the author the story relates better, cause you want to know about that author's life - where she comes from, etc. that is the interesting thing about it.

However I would urge anyone in the group to watch this video told from a West Indian perspective --- Fire in Babylon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbaI9...
I didnt grow up in this time but our parents did and we still watch this

I would like to know though more about what is meant by 'buffer' - is it being mixed race that buffered this family?


Diane Brown (Diane_Brown) | 38 comments Beverly wrote: "Diane wrote: "ConnorD wrote: "Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. Look forward to ..."

Agree it all depends on perspective -


Diane Brown (Diane_Brown) | 38 comments ConnorD wrote: "Beverly wrote: "Diane wrote: "ConnorD wrote: "Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. ..."

Connor that is a great video -- The full documentary was actually shown on national television here a couple of months ago.


message 18: by Diane (last edited Feb 19, 2014 08:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Brown (Diane_Brown) | 38 comments Overall, even though not really set in political context I identify so much with the family dynamic and could see my own family members reflected in some of the sisters of her mother. I thought of the role of women at the time, particularly the sister who runs Rose Cottage and felt her pain, even though masked through etiquette, rules and poise.

I also thought that she had an adorable husband - he was gentle and cared deeply for his wife and family. I felt sad to see the fortunes change and the impact it had on the family

Lorna's mother became like a mother to many in Kingston and I saw that she got that from her mother too - who played a similar role in Harvey River.

The brother who didnt like Harvey River also resonates very closely to my own family, so I got that - some people are just not meant for the whole "picket fence" life and prefer a much faster pace


ConnorD | 181 comments I've loaded a video on the home page of Afro Books where the author talks about how she came to write the book .. inspired by a poem she wrote "I am becoming my mother"


Beverly ConnorD wrote: "Beverly wrote: "Diane wrote: "ConnorD wrote: "Just started reading this book today, sounds interesting. Watched a documentary on the politics of cricket in the West Indies last week, was inspired. ..."

That's for this video. I do remember this and it does show how inspired SA was by this. So can understand wanting to read more about that time and the events (social/political/economic) that fostered the Afro-national/Pan-African identity.

Here are a couple of more books and/or authors that may be of interest:

C.L.R. James

The Hills of Hebron by Sylvia Wynter

Orlando Patterson


Donald | 126 comments Very inspiring video. I just watched the entire documentary. Amazing - thanks for posting

I do not understand the game - at all, but obviously from the video this was so much more than the game


ConnorD | 181 comments I enjoyed reading this book. I reflected at length on the part where author's parents fortunes changed suddenly and witness that quite a bit in South Africa. I have experienced this too in my family set up. Considered how the choice between being safe around your family (if you have that choice) versus going it alone. The choice is not an easy one.

I read an article the other day (but cannot locate it now) about South Africa indicating that parents are supporting their children much longer than before - one of reasons given was that it is much tougher to make it on your own given high living costs.

The author's choice meant much hardship for the family for sure.


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