Leaving Gee’s Bend
by Irene Latham, published 2010
“Would Mama like the colors I picked? Would she be mad about me taking them pieces from her apron? I turned the quilt in the air, looking at it this way and that. Soon I would be running out of thread. Wasn’t but a few inches hanging down like the tail of a kite.”
Gee’s Bend is indeed a real place. The women of Gee’s Bend have a tradition of creating quilts that dates back to early American history. In recent years, their quilts were discovered and exhibited in museums. The heart of the tradition passes on from mother to daughter. In this thoroughly researched historical fiction children’s book, we meet one such daughter.
The value of this children’s book lies in the worlds that it opens us to. Reading the book was profound, and then finding that the culture it depicted is a living tradition was even more profound. And that is why literature and reading is such an important part of real education. Imagine uncovering people, ways, and even art forms, that you might not know about, except for finding them in a good book!
There are some difficult scenes in this children’s book, including the trauma of a difficult childbirth, and the realities and meanness of prejudice. The stoic bravery of the young 10-year-old girl in this story is both real and compelling. This is an important and mature children’s book, but well worth reading. It would be terrific if parents and children could read it together. I would recommend age 11 and up.
For follow-up, there is a Pulitzer Prize-winning essay about Gee’s Bend that is fascinating to read. You can find it here. Also check out the quilts of Gee’s Bend. They are a treasure as well.
Find this at your local bookstore