cover image Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World

Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World

Catherine E. McKinley. Bloomsbury, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-60819-505-3

In this memoir of longing, community, and personal maturation, McKinley (The Book of Sarahs), half African-American by birth, adopted and raised by white parents who were plant devotees, seeks her roots through the intertwined European and African history of the once rare indigo. A plant dye long prized for its deep blue color, indigo became a staple of trade from Africa across the Mediterranean and Europe; indigo and the fabric dyed from it evoke stories of slavery (past and present), global trade, and entrenched cultural traditions. McKinley's journey to the source of indigo leads her unexpectedly to politically unstable areas like the Ivory Coast, as well as to Ghana, Mali, and other African countries, where she is welcomed. McKinley's passion for the rare blue dye%E2%80%94created from ash, urine, and leaves, and used to painstakingly imprint storytelling designs%E2%80%94leads to intense friendships and an introduction to the complexity of social and economic status in a continent so far removed from the woman who inspired McKinley's journey%E2%80%94her grandmother%E2%80%94a questioning, tartan-clad woman in a rich blue coat. Photo insert; map. (June)