My Brother Marvin: A Memoir by Zeola Gaye

Timothy Harrell
Student, Bridge Program

Marvin’s baby sister wrote this book. They were very close so he was comfortable divulging a lot of information to her because he trusted her. He had a couple of rocky marriages and an on-going drug problem. His sister was one of his suppliers. At the book signing I went to she said she would only write the book if she was going to tell the absolute truth. That’s what appealed to me. I could see the truth in her descriptions of Washington D.C. during the 70s.

I’ve always been fascinated by biographies. I was in the entertainment realm with my family of sisters and we were always listening to Motown. I heard his music then, but my attention wasn’t drawn to him until he was shot by his father.

I was a kid in the same area of Washington DC where Marvin grew up. People from around there have said to me “That’s a Marvin nose” and “You look like Marvin Gaye.” Even at the book signing Zeola looked at me and said, “Well, you could be related.” There are Gayes on my mother’s side of the family and our families all grew up in same area. I felt comfortable with her family at the signing.

I followed up with an email to Zeola reminding her that I was the one in the audience that asked her about family names. I thought it might trigger some connection about our families for her. I’d hear back from her.

She was colloquial in her language. She spoke as the entertainer she was. Her vocabulary isn’t extensive. She wasn’t college educated, she went straight from high school to being on the road but she knew people
and what was going on. Her writing let me visualize the ’70s again, just as it was for me back then in my home town. Her writing is very descriptive. Now I’m looking for other books that can take me away like that.
“The Power of Memoirs, Biographies,” Michel Martin, NPR

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