cover image The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Susan Goldman Rubin. Abrams, $21.95 (56p) ISBN 978-1-4197-2131-1

Rubin (Hot Pink: The Life and Fashions of Elsa Schiaparelli) tells the story of a folk art form passed down through generations in a small corner of the Deep South. Descended from the enslaved and, later, tenant farmers, the women quilters of Gee’s Bend, Ala., create unique variations of traditional patterns. Their vibrant handiwork sits in stark contrast to archival photographs of the quilters’ hardscrabble surroundings. The women’s expressions are proud, their settings meager—a 1937 photograph shows a room wallpapered in newsprint to keep out drafts. Rubin traces the quilters’ history alongside their struggle for civil rights and a steadily improving quality of life. When the women’s art is “discovered” by outsiders and becomes sought after, the results weren’t always welcome. Numerous quotations allow the women to tell their story: “A lot of people make quilts for your bed,” says Mensie Lee Pettway. “But a quilt is more. It represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history.” An epilogue, source notes, bibliography, index, and brief quilting how-to wrap up a celebration of fellowship and ingenuity. Ages 8–12. (June)