Patchwork: Conversations Between Generations
by Carol Wilson-Mack

"[W]e must hold on to our culture, to our way of life. We must build from generation to generation."

A group of African-American women forms a quilting group under the direction of Ma Anna. For approximately twenty years in the mid-twentieth century, they share stories, personal histories, secrets, anguish, frustration, grief, hope, faith, and, overall, friendship. At the beginning of the tale, they talk of the mysterious murder of a man who was visiting his family while he was on leave, apparently AWOL, from the Army. At another session, a woman named Sappy bemoans her gifted daughter's apparent preference for a radio singer over her chance to be the first member of her family to attend college.

One meeting that particularly stands out is when a woman shares the terrible secret of having been raped multiple times by a white man and of then bearing his child in her family, for she is married. Her husband and the white man's wife share the knowledge of the child's paternity. Unlike the black man, the white woman, like other white women in similar circumstances, is permitted to vent her rage. Tragically, her rage is turned on the rape victim, not her husband, whom she is not allowed to confront. Women in that time and place were subordinated to the status quo that affirmed that white men could do what they liked with anyone who wasn't a white male.

The personalities and perspectives of the women clearly emerge in the story. Exhortations to remain positive, caring, and supportive to one another for the sake of each woman, their families, and their communities intertwine with rebellion against the injustices and cruelties that invade their lives. The practice of quilting evokes the metaphor of stitching and holding together, applying to the women's friendships, their connection to subsequent generations through the quilts, their work in their communities, and their faith in God.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Return to USR Home