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Taking the Michelangelo: A memoir of recovery and healing by Karim Harvey / 10 February 2015

Painting of Karim Harvey by Gary Maloy.

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Karim Harvey is a member of Hackney based mental health charity Core Arts. He is also a fine poet. This is his first book, put together with help from Core. Here he takes us on his life journey. Born to black parents who he never knew, he was adopted by a white family. 

He grew up in Essex in a predominately white environment where “no Blacks, no dogs, no Irish” was an often seen sign on notice boards. He was given the diagnosis of gender dysphonic, whatever that means. Karim talks openly about his experience of being transsexual.  

As he says in the title, this book is a memoir of healing and recovery. It is also about not letting them grind you down. The title of the opening poem is where the book’s title comes from. Here he says “they told me I couldn’t do anything, yet I am the master of my own destiny… So called friends called me a freak, I did not cry, I grew strong”. 

The search for identity runs through this book. For example in the poem ‘Slavery’ he asks “why am I black?” However, later in the poem he asks “why am I white?” He then asks “why am I proud?”

The experience of not knowing his true parents is addressed in various poems, an example of this being ‘Why Did Mother Went Away?’ Here he says “It was not my fault that I was born, so why did you go away”?.

There is much to learn from in this book. It is an interesting read. Karim’s mental health experiences are conveyed in various poems. In the poem ‘Anxiety’ he talks about a much overlooked state of being. 

At the end of the poem ‘Bi-Polar’ he says “Can I smile even more, It has been proved possible. Because today is a good day. I am well”. 

The closing poem ‘The Monkey And The Doggy’ is based on ‘The Owl And The Pussycat’ by Victorian poet Edward Lear. 

As these poems show Karim’s life has been a tough one. There has been much to struggle through. However, he is not a victim, but a survivor with a story to tell, and with much experience to share.

I hope Karim keeps writing, and publishes future books.