Stitchin’ And Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

—I knew I wouldn’t be able to put any new posts up with the new baby home, so I did a few before the new baby came, using Blogger’s feature to publish posts automatically for a date in the future. ((Just so you aren’t wondering how I am able to do this with a newborn!))—

Today is the release date of Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt by Patricia C. McKissack and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera.

In an interview on the Random House website, the author says:

It is said the Impressionists artists gathered in Provence in southern France because of the vibrant colors. I can imagine that if the Impressionist had visited Gee’s Bend, they would have chosen it as an artist’s haven as well. The sky seems bluer, the foliage seems greener, the Alabama River seems muddier, the sun brighter . . . and the mosquitoes bite harder! It is just a place where everything is alive, including the people–they laugh like no other people, they throw back their heads and sing praise songs. Life has not always been kind to these women, but they are warm and friendly and inclusive.

When I was in Gee’s Bend, I met so many people, and I knew it would be difficult to write a book that included all their stories. So, I decided to create a character that represented the reader, a young person, learning a craft and thus earning her place among the community of women. In this way, I could honor all the women, their genius and their craftsmanship. Each one of the vignettes is like a patch. Cozbi, the illustrator, visually put them together to form a quilt.

Random House sent me an advance copy and I have to say (I would tell if this wasn’t right) that it is a beautiful book, both in story and visually. The introduction is written by Matt Arnett (Tinwood founder) who re-discovered the quilters and got the world to take notice:

Originally, quilting was the evening activity or chore of the women, which, in addition to creating covers for warmth, also gave them a platform for storytelling, communicating, and singing the songs their mothers sang. Quilting reinforced the ties between generations – from mother to daughter and beyond. Children sat beneath the quilt helping their mothers. They learned basic skills by taking the thread out of old quilts so they could be recycled for new quilts. As girls got older, they were invited to join their elders at the quilting table, where they pieced simple quilts.

Small excerpts from the book – it is written in the voice of “Baby Girl” who waits her turn to grow up and find her place at the quilting frame:

I listened and learned
the recipes for eleven kinds of jelly,
what to do for teething toddlers,
how to get rid of mold
and the words to a hundred
hymns and gospel songs.
All the while
waiting for my turn.

Mama told me
“Cloth has a memory.”

I hope
the black corduroy remembers that it was once the pants…
my uncle wore to go vote for the first time.
all clean and new.

I hope
the pink and green flowered tablecloth remembers
the peach cobbler
I spilled on it at the Fourth of July picnic…

And as Baby Girl does grow, get her chance, and makes her own quilt, she says she has “hundreds of ideas in my head. Quilts that are about me, the place where I live and the people who have been here for generations.”


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