by Alexander von Hoffman (Johns Hopkins, 1996)
This book explores the emergence of Jamaica Plain during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Like other American urban neighborhoods of the era, Jamaica Plain experienced the arrival of many ethnic groups, a house-building boom for members of every social class, and the creation of commercial, industrial, and recreational areas within its boundaries. Businesses, churches, schools, clubs, charitable societies, and political organizations spun a web of social ties that fostered a powerful sense of allegiance to the local community. Drawn from a wealth of primary sources and illustrated with more than fifty photographs and maps.
by Jill Hofstra, soft cover, 252 pages
Jill Hofstra’s new book Edwina chronicles the life of a precocious and delightful girl who lived in Jamaica Plain in the early 1900s. Jill Hofstra knew her grandmother had a passion for capturing childhood experiences and life reflections in writing. But it was not until after her death that her journals were discovered and a collection of colorful memories were revealed. Hofstra pored over the diaries of her grandmother and edited them into a compelling work that takes readers to turn-of-the-century America, where they find Edwina happily growing up on Paul Gore Street in Jamaica Plain, Boston.
“What makes this compilation so interesting, heartwarming and entertaining are the personalities she meets, young Edwina’s open and honest approach to them and to the problems she confronts,” Hofstra writes. The journals, written as remembrances of childhood by an older Edwina, add a layer of wise perspective to the blissful unawareness of youth. She recalls how the harsh challenges of poverty and growing up Protestant in a Catholic community never seemed so bad through the filter of an optimistic young girl’s mind. Edwina also reveals what it was like growing up with a working mother - a dressmaker - and a mysterious father she barely knew. A fascinating procession of characters leaves indelible marks on Edwina’s life and that of the reader.
This book is also available at Jamaica Plain Historical Society events and from the following locations in Jamaica Plain:
Jamaicaway Books, 676 Centre Street, 617-983-3204
Rhythm and Muse, 470 Centre Street, 617-524-6622
A Home in the Heart of a City: A Woman’s Search for Community
by Kathleen Hirsch (August, 1998)
Hirsch has written of homeless women in Songs from the Alley
and now she reports on one woman’s home - her own. Her portrait of Jamaica Plain is full of nostalgia and soft colors. As she reconstructs the many small but vital triumphs won by zealous individuals, she also offers fascinating portraits: Eddie Ortega’s transformation from drug dealer into the 22-year-old director of the local YMCA, 73-year-old native Ruth Parker, who has known everyone in the neighborhood and who relishes, as Hirsch puts it, “the magic and the muddle of being human together.” It’s the gritty details that bring this story alive, so when Hirsch wanders off, as she often does, into philosophizing about community and her deep feelings for it, the book suffers. Before misguided urban planning led to the decline of Jamaica Plain, Hirsch’s mythic Jamaica Plain seems to have existed in a haze of neighborliness without abandoned stores or lots. The unanswered question is what happens next: Hirsch reports that friends in search of good public schools are leaving for the suburbs, and as she surveys the local elementary school, one is left wondering where she’ll ultimately send her young son. The energy needed to hold such a disparate community of races, cultures, economics and education together is enormous. We can only hope Hirsch found some answers. - Publishers Weekly