Another Mother: A Jamaican Woman, The Jewish Boy She Raised and His Quest for Her Secret History
After his cherished childhood nanny dies, a Jewish young man entering adulthood realises there’s so much he has yet to learn about the woman who lent him her accent and with whom he shared an unlikely kindred spirit. Part memoir, part reportage, Another Mother is a story about family, an unlikely duo, and a woman whose strength held it all together. From Jamaica to New Jersey, Ross Kenneth Urken chronicles the life of Dezna Sanderson, the Jamaican nanny who had an outsize positive effect on his dysfunctional Jewish American family and life trajectory. An anchor in a volatile home – plagued by addiction and mental illness – Dezna became Urken’s closest confidante and inspired in him a love of words and narrative. But she vanished before he could ask all the essential questions he wanted about her life – adult to adult. There was a tacit privacy agreement she maintained during his childhood, a sacrosanct code of silence. Her role was to maintain order in this American household while obscuring the chaos of her own past. Yet because she transcended the call of duty in her love and maternal care, the author finds that gag-order null and void. As redemption for his missed opportunity, he embarks on a journey to find her through an authentic connection to her Jamaican homeland and her relatives. He digs deeper into her family life – the three loves, the eight children – and the hardships she faced in her native country – the poverty, the family pineapple business ravaged economically by a calculated CIA plot. After becoming a widow, she escaped to the country that undid hers in search of a better future – forced with the difficult decision of leaving her own kids behind to provide for them. In his quest for the truth of Dezna’s past, Urken also encounters unexpected secrets and a spiritual Promised Land.
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Ross Kenneth Urken
October 21, 2019