Friday, October 24, 2014

not a mystery--YELLOW CROCUS by Laila Ibrahim








Laila Ibrahim’s Yellow Crocus features two courageous women in a terrible situation.

Mattie, the slave, has to give up nursing her own son to become the wet nurse for Lisbeth.

Lisbeth, born to privilege, is destined to marry the son of a prominent Virginia slaveholder. She will govern the big house on a large plantation.

But the two women come to love one another as a mother and a daughter would. 

Lisbeth sees the injustices of slavery. She watches as her family sells Mattie’s son, separating him from his mother, apparently forever.

Lisbeth thinks she understands why Mattie has to take her second child, a daughter, and run away. But she doesn’t understand at all.

Finally, the story hinges on a rape. That rape changes Lisbeth’s view of the role of slave women on the plantation. She, too, breaks away.

All of this takes place in the midst of blind self-delusion. Lisbeth’s family pushes her to marry the prominent slave holder, telling her that if she does, her position will be assured for the rest of her life.

Ironically, these scenes take place within four years of the start of the Civil War. Soon, these people who see themselves as aristocrats will lose everything.

I had several thoughts about this book. Yellow Crocus shows the evils of slavery through the eyes of strong women. It also celebrates the men who make it possible for these women to do what they have to do.

The book graphically describes personal experience in slave quarters, on the underground railroad, and in large plantation houses.

Shallow values, greed and position, govern much of what is happening.

Yellow Crocus makes those of us born in Southern states think about our own lives.

I grew up in a town which some historians have called the Bushwhacker capital of the confederacy. Somehow, my parents sheltered me from all that.

As young children, my sister and I each had a black baby doll. We never gave it a thought. Nothing was ever said. But when I look back on it sixty-five years later, I wonder where my parents got the dolls. (I’ve since thought they probably ordered them from J.C. Penny.)

Our town was proud of its history that the sun couldn’t set on a black person. Black people had to be out of town by sunset, even in times after the Civil War. (Fortunately that did change.)

So many things influence our attitudes toward race, sexual orientation (another area were my parents were accepting), and cultural position.

Today, my hometown has a series of beautiful Civil War murals. The town has much other history, but most of all, they chose to remember the Civil War. (Admittedly, they probably see it, in part, as a tourist attraction.)

Our growing up touches everything we are, and that was true for Lisbeth too.

I had one other thought. So far as I could tell, the Unitarian Universalist press originally published this book. Then Amazon publishing picked up the book and (apparently after some revision) promoted it.

I bought the book on Kindle for $3.99.

There are so many different ways to publish good books nowadays. Books traditional mass market publishers might ignore can see the light of day.

I’m glad Yellow Crocus saw the light of day. I thought it was well worth reading.

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