Cover image for Harriet's daughter
Harriet's daughter
Nourbese Philip, Marlene, 1947-
Publication Information:
Toronto, Ontario : Women's Press, 1988.
Physical Description:
150 pages ; 20 cm
Format :

On Order



"Harriet Tubman was brave and strong, and she was black like me. I think it was the first time I thought of wanting to be called Harriet -- I wanted to be Harriet'. Margaret is determined to be someone; to be cool, with style and class and to have a blacker skin. More than anything else she wants to help her best friend, Zulma to escape from Canada and fly back to Tobago to live with her grandmother. She compiles a list: 'Things I want changed in my life' and sets about achieving her objectives. But at fourteen, coming to terms with growing-up, relationships and responsibilities is not quite so straightforward, and the parental threat of 'Good West Indian Discipline' is never far removed. In this charming, humorous and perceptive tale of adolescence, Marlene Nourbese Philip explores the friendship of two young black girls and throws into sharp relief the wider issues of culture and identity so relevant to teenagers of all races and colours.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

This dramatic reading of Marlene Nourbese Philip's short Canadian novel is set in an ethnic, urban community of West Indian immigrants. Teenage Margaret identifies with and is so inspired by two women--a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp named Harriet and Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad--that she wishes to change her name. Margaret/Harriet gets her chance to carry out an "escape" herself when she befriends a recent immigrant from the Caribbean who longs to return to her island home. The performances and readings are good, the variety of voices adds interest, and the production qualities are professional. This is a fine resource for school and library collections, especially those serving black teens. The value of education and a strong family life is implicit in the appealing story. Ages 13-17. ~--Phyllis Petcoff

Choice Review

A promising first novel by the author of Thorns (Toronto, 1980), Salmon Courage (Toronto, 1983), and recipient of the Casa De las Americas Award (1988). Harriet's Daughter, which sensitively explores the familial and social conflicts of 14-year-old Margaret, belongs in the tradition of childhood novels such as George Lamming's In the Castle of My Skin (1953) and Merle Hodge's Crick, Crack Monkey (London, 1981). Philips, born in Tobagao, sets her novel in Canada, thereby evoking the complicated tensions of race, class, and gender experienced by her Caribbean characters. Margaret's pride in her racial heritage, quite distinct from her autocratic father's ambivalence about his blackness, is reinforced by her friendship with Zulma, who teaches her "Tobago-talk," distinct from "plain, flat English." Because of her interest in black history, Margaret choses the name Harriet, after Harriet Tubman. She invents a game based on the Underground Railroad, complete with trails, freedom papers, cops, dogs, slaves. The game is an extended metaphor for contemporary race and class relations within a predominantly white environment. The language of the novel is a vivid intermingling of standard English and dialect. The novel successfully challenges stereotypical notions of both strong, matriarchal black mothers and of poor, abused, powerless black women. Overall, the work is a valuable contribution to Caribbean and postcolonial literatures, and will be useful to undergraduate and graduate students and scholars. -K.H. Katrak, University of Massachusetts at Amherst