IWIC book spotlight on Quilt of Souls by Phyllis Lawson – “an historical unveiling of hushed bloodlines…”
Quilt of Souls is a book the world needs to have. It is more than a personal memoir; it is an historical unveiling of hushed bloodlines and stories of a time and place that got swept under the carpet; powerful, intense, poignant stories that need to be heard.
At the age of four years old, the author, Phyllis Lawson, was plucked off her front porch, from the only family she knew and delivered sixteen hours away to land on the doorstep of her grandmother, Lula, whom she had never met before. Feeling both hopeless and helpless, pure and simple, the young girl felt that she needed a miracle and that miracle came to her in the form of an old tattered quilt (a family heirloom) that her grandmother made out of the clothing of long lost loved ones who had died in the face of extreme bigotry, racism and ugliness that were pervasive to that time. Lula Horn (1883-1986), was born in Sandersville, Mississippi and later moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi where she worked as a domestic.
Through oral tradition, and through the weaving of ripped up pieces of clothes transformed into quilts, she told her grandchild of the tragic stories of her ancestor’s lives and deaths. Each piece of cloth woven into the quilt had the blood, sweat and tears of Black people living and dying at the hands of unconscionable injustices. The weaving of their clothing into a quilt mended each broken life back together with each pull of the thread.
No matter your ethnicity, this book will transport you back in time and will break your heart wide open. It is a book that covers abandonment, physical and emotional abuse. It will make you laugh, cry, and swell with hope and resilience. Out of the grave agony of despair comes healing for many generations. Quilt of Souls is about the strength of mostly Black women who prevailed before and after the turn of the century, a demographic that has gone unrecognized, with no celebration of the lives they endured and upheld. The untold stories of these women who were quilt makers, laundresses’, and butter churners are revealed in this book. It tells of how they survived and provided for their children and the grandchildren they raised.
Seamlessly written, Quilt of Souls is a book that needs to be brought to the forefront. It is a rare story not only due to the complexities and intricacies of the quilt as a physical object, but also what it stands for metaphorically. It speaks about, and unearths, the taboo subjects that were only heard in whispers during that era. www.quiltofsouls.org