February 21, 2018

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The Quilts of Gee’s Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin | SLJ Review

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redstarRUBIN, Susan Goldman. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. 56p. bibliog. index. notes. photos. Abrams. Jun. 2017. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781419721311.

STAR-NF-Rubin-TheQuiltsofGeesBendGr 6 Up –A quilt “represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history.” In this handsomely designed volume, Rubin shares the history of the Gee’s Bend families, who, for more than 100 years, have been designing and creating bold and brilliant quilts. From 1845, when plantation owner Mark Pettway and his household settled in Alabama, to the present, African American women in this rural village have been piecing together scraps of fabric salvaged from old clothes, flour sacks, or corduroy pillow covers, while their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters have watched and learned. Through the years, as they endured and eventually rose above abject poverty, back-breaking work, and inequality, the women continually found community in picking up their needles to help one another sew quilts to keep their families warm. As they witnessed tumultuous moments in history, from the Civil War and the Great Depression to the civil rights movement, the quilters were eventually recognized for their artistry by the outside world. Rubin captures the voices of the inhabitants of Gee’s Bend, weaving quotes and memories of current residents throughout the engaging narrative. Vibrant photos of the most striking quilts and archival images complement the text. In the spirit of passing on the tradition, simple instructions for making a quilt square appear at the end of the book. VERDICT Combining history, memoir, and quilting, this fascinating portrait of an indomitable community will appeal to readers, artists, and crafters of all ages.–Linda L. Walkins, Saint Joseph Preparatory High School, Boston

This review was published in the School Library Journal April 2017 issue.

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