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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt (Picture Book)

Released October 2008

Reviewed by Deb Fowler

Gee’s Bend was one of those old time, out of the way places that no one had ever heard of except maybe the people who lived there. A long, long time ago it was a place where there were plantations. The white slave owners ruled the roost so to speak, but after the Civil War the slaves became tenant farmers and later became proud owners of the land. It was a place where things didn’t change much, including the way quilts were made. It was a community that remained hidden away, unchanged until rediscovered more than a hundred years later.

Little girls often were out of sight, quietly listening, underneath the quilting frame while their elders worked. Baby Girl remembered “the warm brown faces of [her] mama, grandma, and great-gran as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed” above her. All the quilts had memories. Her Mama told her that “cloth has a memory.” The quilts were pieced together from the clothing of family members. The day soon came when Baby Girl would be ready to make her own quilt. To the women of Gee’s Bend this was a rite of passage. Baby Girl’s cousin Ashlyn, from New York thought that was too country and nonsensical, but Baby Girl knew differently. Many of the town’s quilts became museum pieces, but hers was one that she would lovingly create and use.

This is a beautiful creative nonfiction story of a young girl who learns to quilt and the importance of the work to her family and community. The story is interspersed with dollops of history about Gee’s Bend and our country’s black leadership passed down by Baby Girl’s elders. It’s a wonderful book to read about the heritage of our country and its traditions and discuss your family history with your own child.

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