Summary from LEAVING GEE’S BEND by Irene Latham, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010:
"Ludelphia Bennett, a determined, ten year old African American girl in 1932 Gee’s Bend, Alabama, leaves home in an effort to find medical help for her sick mother, and she recounts her ensuing adventures in a quilt she is making."
Writers know they must be able to summarize their stories in one sentence or likely, their focus is off. It’s also a handy device for pitching a book to an editor. New writers learn to study the summaries in the front of published books to learn how to write that all important encapsulating sentence.
But there is so much more–and there must be to hold the reader’s interest. Author Latham does not disappoint. She keeps her readers turning pages while her main character struggles with all sorts of life challenging and yes, even life threatening adventures.
The setting is Gee’s Bend, made famous by the artistry of the talented Gee’s Bend quiltmakers whose work now hangs in museums. It’s a parallel struggle. The fictional Ludelphia and her family come to life in the skillful hands of the author. In the real Gee’s Bend, a sharecropping community made up of descendants of slaves, the people battled grinding poverty and unconscionable brutality from white bullies.
Against the backdrop of an historical raid on Gee’s Bend and a rescue by the Red Cross, Ludelphia’s family suffers but also celebrates the joys of loving and caring for each other. The fictional stories were inspired by the living quiltmakers who welcomed the author into their midst with warmth and enthusiasm. These are hugging people.
The songs, smiles, and struggles of these strong people who demonstrate an unshakable faith is captured in their art. The artists themselves never expected their quilts to make them famous.
The quilts of Gee’s Bend are a labor of love. They always were.
Tomorrow: Meet author Irene Latham, who found a way to bring the story of Gee’s Bend to young readers.