I met Phyllis Lawson online, as is the way with this world-wide web of ours, a few months ago, and I loved her instantly for two reasons: she was passionate about her family history, and she was equally passionate about sharing that history.
And for good reasons, Phyllis’s book, Quilt of Souls is one of the best family memoirs I’ve ever read. It is beautifully-written and unflinchingly honest without being in the least bit bitter or cruel.
Quilt of Souls is a book the world needs to have. It is more than my personal memoir; it is a 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, I was plucked off my front porch, from the only family I knew, and delivered sixteen hours away to land on the doorstep of Grandmother Lula, who I never met before. I was abandoned by my mother, pure and simple. I needed a miracle and that miracle took the form of an old tattered quilt (a family heirloom) that my grandmother made out of the clothing of long lost loved ones who died in the face of extreme bigotry, racism and ugliness that was pervasive to that time.
Lula Horn (1883-1986), through oral tradition, and through the weaving of ripped up pieces of clothes transformed into quilts, told me the tragic stories of my 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.
I highly recommend you pick up Phyllis’s book, Quilt of Souls, and get out the tissues. It’ll break your heart and then stitch it back up again, like a quilt sewn with all of Grandmama Lula’s love.