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Yellow Crocus: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim
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Yellow Crocus: A Novel (edition 2010)

by Laila Ibrahim

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1471681,427 (4.05)6
Member:tututhefirst
Title:Yellow Crocus: A Novel
Authors:Laila Ibrahim
Info:Flaming Chalice Press (2010), Paperback, 238 pages
Collections:Your library, E-book
Rating:****
Tags:NetGalley, historical fiction, slavery

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Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

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  1. 00
    The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (susiesharp)
    susiesharp: this is also a tale of the south and slavery but this one is not as depressing as The Kitchen House but has a similar feel.
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This is really a heartbreaking, tender tale about a field-hand slave who was forced to tear her own infant son from her breast, handing him over to a wet nurse so she could be a wet nurse to the master’s child, a job considered somewhat of a “promotion” since she was brought inside the house to work, provided with better food and her own tiny room adjacent to the newborn’s more luxurious accommodation. The story is about the bond that develops between Miss Elizabeth (Lisbeth) and the slave, Mattie, which is an enduring attachment and relationship, and it is an exploration into the hard life of the slaves and their cold, cruel masters.
I really liked this story because it is just that, a story told gently in a very linear way, making it easy to follow. Even though it was simply told, it still managed to arouse the deepest of emotions in me, the reader, because of the subject matter. It is about a horrific time in America’s past, a time in which the injustices treated in the book most certainly were commonplace. As in Sue Monk’s “The Invention of Wings”, the main “white character” (but in this book’s case, it is a fictional young woman), grows up with conflicting emotions about the unjust world on her plantation, faces the shallowness and cruelty of her kind, the landowner who makes his fortune from the work of slaves, and eventually, she finds the courage to rise up against, and defy, those she loves most, but that is where the comparison between the two books ends,
Slave owners did not honor their agreements, rather they honored their greed. They could not be as wealthy and well thought of if they paid the slaves or set them free. The slaves were property which added to their wealth and stature in the community. The contracts granting the indentured servants and Africans their freedom were ignored when a new law was passed negating their former arrangements, even when only weeks away from the end of their term of enslavement. They were unjustly treated and brutally mishandled as chattels. They were powerless to object. Illiteracy and the fear of inhuman punishment were the strongest weapons of the slave owner and the cultivation of the slave’s innocent ignorance enabled them to keep them prisoners their whole lives and use them in any way they chose. If they had been able to read and understand the world around them, I wondered if they quite possibly would have organized and revolted instead of being kept down by a dominant white minority population of cruel taskmasters who treated them as less than human. It defies the imagination to think that this type of behavior, condemned in the Holocaust, was smiled upon in America during this time period. It is hard to imagine that even President Abraham Lincoln did not fight the war to free the slave, but rather to bring greater economic security to the country whose very existence was being threatened and torn apart by The Civil War. Justice was eventually served but at a tremendous cost.
Women were also kept largely ignorant about the ways of the world and were not permitted to discuss anything of import with male companions. They lived in a bubble which they believed would float on forever. While Lisbeth worried about gowns, though, Mattie worried about surviving. Severely whipped when her husband and son escaped from different plantations, without her knowledge, she felt beaten down and defeated until she discovered that she was, once again, pregnant with Emmanuel’s child. The child gave her hope and she lived for the day that might find them all together once again, when father and son would meet the daughter and sister they never knew. Her courage and stamina were remarkable. Time passes and as Lisbeth is planning her future life, learning comportment and conversational skills, naively often quite unaware of the disparity between the slaves and the owners, assuming that this was just the way it was and would always be in the world, so was Mattie patiently planning for her own future.
I found it hard to believe that Lisbeth could have been that naïve about the world around her. She knew injustice when she saw it, but stood by quietly. Apparently she had learned her lessons in obedience and behavior well. I also found it hard to believe that she could have kept her relationship with Mattie so secret for so long a time, especially when she, at a very tender young age, barely 10, started teaching Samuel, Mattie’s son, his letters, which he in turn taught to others without ever being discovered, although he had to sneak off to hide under a large tree with his mother and Lisbeth for two years. There were always watchful eyes of overseers to beware of, the gossip of slaves to fear , the wagging, teasing tongues of family members that could threaten her safety, and, most especially, even Mattie’s life. I kept wondering if she really could have gotten away with such deception. Children often unexpectedly blurt out information inadvertently, but Lisbeth was apparently mature beyond her years and growing more aware of the injustices she witnessed.
The story ended in fairytale fashion, athough no one reached nirvana. I didn’t feel as if it rang true in the conclusion which seemed contrived. However, the coming of age of Lisbeth and the strength of Mattie’s character carried the story to its end without disappointment. It is a sweet story in which some justice prevailed in an unjust society, and so, though simply written, it packed quite a punch. Something about this little book brought the horror of slavery right into the present day. It is Kathleen Grissom’s “The Kitchen House” in reverse and so much worse in the pain it exhibits, but so beautiful in the love that crossed color lines. The stoicism and bravery of the slave was remarkable. Like survivors of the Holocaust, there was a strong character and will to live, always hoping for salvation and a better day.
Still, one has to wonder how man finds it in himself to treat any human with such indignity and cruelty. But, then, I am brought up short when I think of terrorists, today, like the radical Islamic group called Isis, that preys on the innocent with vile, sadistic tactics. In the name of everything holy, how can man claim to be G-d fearing and then perform the heinous acts we witness all too often? ( )
  thewanderingjew | Sep 7, 2014 |
Seconds after being born in 1837, Elizabeth Wainwright, born to the white mistress of a Virgina plantation, is delivered into the arms of her wet nurse, Mattie. The move from the fields to the "big house" is suppose to be an honor for a slave, but Mattie is torn away from her own infant son and her grandfather, to take care of Elizabeth (called Lisbeth.) Since Mattie has no say in the matter, she devotes herself to Lizbeth, even though she longs to be raising her own child.

As the years pass, Lizbeth is drawn slowly back into her parents world, and along with that, learns of the expectations that come with being a high-born young lady. She still retains her connection to Mattie, and as she grows older, she becomes more aware of the injustice and inequality around her. On the threshold of her wedding to the debonair Edward Cunningham, she witness a shockingly brutal act, and is forced to choose between what is socially acceptable and what she believes is right, and the decision will change her life forever.

This was a very engaging and compelling novel.I admired Mattie's courage in the face of all of her heartbreak, and watching the character of Lisbeth grow and mature in a realistic way. This very touching story explained the bond between a white woman and her black nurse, but at the same time was a very realistic look at slavery. ( )
  mom2acat | Aug 3, 2014 |
Minutes after her birth, Elizabeth is entrusted to a wet nurse, Mattie, an enslaved wet nurse. Elizabeth is cared for by Mattie whose time is spent with her charge at the expense of Mattie's own child. Elizabeth is raised with the knowledge of both worlds ..that of the slave and that of the white world. ( )
  creighley | Jan 6, 2014 |
Wonderful book. My favorite for the year !! ( )
  susancrowe01 | Apr 25, 2013 |
This story discusses the life of Lisbeth, a plantation owner's daughter, and Mattie, a slave brought in to be Lisbeth's wet nurse. It is a very touching story discussing the relationship between the two people from such different backgrounds. It's told in such a way that shows the feelings and beliefs from the point of view of the slaves and also the white plantation owners. It's wonderful to understand the closeness and love between Lisbeth and Mattie but it's also very sad to read about the treatment of the slaves and accept that these ways were accepted and thought to be 'best' for the slaves ( )
  kim.jacobs | Feb 17, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0984502203, Paperback)

Moments after her birth to the mistress of a sprawling Virginia plantation, Lisbeth Wainwright is entrusted to Mattie, an enslaved wet nurse. From then on, Mattie serves as Lisbeth's stand-in mother, nursing her, singing her to sleep, and soothing her in the night. And yet mothering Lisbeth tears Mattie away from her own baby, Samuel, who lives in the slave quarters. Growing up under Mattie's tender care, Lisbeth adopts her traditions of prayer, singing, eating black-eyed peas, and hunting for yellow crocuses in the spring. As the years pass, Lisbeth is drawn back into the white world, earning a growing awareness of the inequality of her and Mattie's stations. She struggles to reconcile her love for Mattie with her parents' expectations for her future, intent on keeping the best of both worlds-until a terrible betrayal forces her to choose once and for all. Yellow Crocus is a compelling novel of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:13 -0400)

"Moments after her birth to the mistress of a sprawling Virginia plantation, Lisbeth Wainwright is entrusted to Mattie, an enslaved wet nurse. From then on, Mattie serves as Lisbeth's stand-in mother, nursing her, singing her to sleep, and soothing her in the night. And yet mothering Lisbeth tears Mattie away from her own baby, Samuel, who lives in the slave quarters. Growing up under Mattie's tender care, Lisbeth adopts her traditions of prayer, singing, eating black-eyed peas, and hunting yellow crocuses in the spring. As the years pass and Lisbeth is drawn back into the white world, she slowly becomes aware of the inequality of her and Mattie's stations. She struggles to reconcile her love for Mattie with her parents' expectations for her future, intent on keeping the best of both worlds--until a terrible betrayal forces her to choose once and for all."--back cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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