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Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World (edition 2012)

by Catherine E. McKinley

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11424105,887 (2.73)19
Member:blhooley
Title:Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World
Authors:Catherine E. McKinley
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:nonfiction, travelogue, textile history

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Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World by Catherine E. McKinley

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  1. 01
    A Perfect Red by Amy Butler Greenfield (lorax)
    lorax: If you were disappointed in "Indigo", expecting a microhistory discussing the dye itself, its origins and history, rather than a personal memoir, "A Perfect Red" will not disappoint.
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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
I had high expectations of this memoir, but found it merely a self-indulgent travelogue. The writing was serviceable, but the author couldn't seem to decide whether this was a story about her personal journey as a woman, as an African-American, or the story of the people she meets when she travels to Africa in search of the increasingly rare dye, indigo. If these were meant to be interwoven threads, Ms. McKinley needs to get out a loom.
The author does spend some time in a cursory history of indigo: the effect it had on trade and cultures, the romance of the herb. But technical details of indigo production were sparse.
The narrative of her visit to Ghana is peopled with characters who should have drawn us in, but instead lay flat on the page. Any of the segments - the story of indigo, her own story, and the people she meets in Africa - would have made a fine little article or story in itself. But these never solidify into a readable whole. ( )
  KarenIrelandPhillips | Oct 22, 2013 |
I would have liked a book about Indigo, instead of the author's journey throughout West Africa. Even then, the author's travelogue is peppered with awkward dialogue, and has a stuffy head over their Fulbright scholarship.

A disappointment. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Although an interesting story/memoir/travel book about the authors search for her roots, I was disappointed as I was really expecting a history of Indigo. It took me a while to get into this and I see other reviewers had the same issue with expecting a totally different read. Not bad, just not what I was expecting. ( )
  sydamy | Feb 17, 2013 |
Part travelogue, part history, sociology, anthropology, personal journey, this is the tale of a young woman who while on a Fulbright fellowship searches for her own roots by researching the history of African indigo. What I love about this book is that it crosses so many genre boundaries. Like any really interesting history, it is full of the teller as well as the tale. Primarily set in Ghana, McKinley obsessively searches for real indigo cloth while telling its history and processes, and describing the people she meets and the places she visits. McKinley, who was adopted at birth by Scottish white parents, knows that she is also the biological daughter of a Jewish mother and an African father and that part of that family traded in cloth. So she is also looking for a part of her personal identity in that cloth history; the self-revelation adds to the richness of the tale. Well written and researched, it is of particular interest to textile enthusiasts, travel lovers, and families of adoption.
  blhooley | Jan 8, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In Indigo, Catherine McKinley – a half-black, half-white American girl adopted and raised by upper middle class Jewish parents – goes in search of herself and her African heritage and, improbably, her obsession with indigo, the ancient dye that once commanded wealth and prestige in textiles. Part travelogue, part memoir, part whimsy, the author writes of her peripatetic journey to West Africa in search of the fabled indigo and all it represents – to her. More than two hundred pages later, the reader is still left wondering what point she is trying to make and where the narrative was supposed to go. With the exception of a marvelous piece about the juxtaposition of the modern and the traditional in the bizarre funeral rites still extant in Ghana, much of the book is a meandering tale of the author’s wide-eyed-wonder of how beautiful indigo garments are. I forced myself to read the entire book because I had agreed to review it. At first, I thought it did not hold my interest because it was simply a “chick book,” and although I am no misogynist I could simply not relate to it. Later, I convinced myself that it had to be going somewhere. It wasn’t until the final anti-climactic pages that it occurred to me that even the author didn’t know where she was going and missed the sad fact that she never got there. With all the books to read and the little time we have, I would skip this one. ( )
  Garp83 | Oct 9, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
The book is not without missteps. Promised connections between the author's ancestry and the indigo trade are tenuous at best. The book does provide, however, a blend of scholarship (at which Ms. McKinley excels), cultural analysis and memoir, with a few passages of exotic travel thrown in. Readers also, one has to admit, gain an appreciation for the intoxicating hues of indigo.
 
McKinley sometimes makes her expertise too apparent; her descriptions of the dyeing process aren't always accessible to a reader unfamiliar with the topic. Still, her personal discoveries resonate, and her unique experiences provide a vivid snapshot of the cultures she encountered in Africa.
added by starfishian | editDenver Post, Sarah Halzak (Jun 15, 2011)
 
Indigo is something of a mystery. It sits between the more familiar purple and blue of rainbows. And it's the elusive center of Catherine E. McKinley's "Indigo: In Search of the Color That Seduced the World" which like its eponymous shade, falls somewhere between more familiar poles. As history, it wanders, sometimes too hastily, through millenniums and contents to trace the reach and power of indigo dye and fabric. As memoir, it gorgeously recounts McKinley's journey to West Africa's teeming markets and churning factories, through funerals and uprisings, to find "the bluest of blues."
 
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For almost five millennia, indigo - a blue pigment obtained from the small green leaf of a parasitic shrub - has been at the centre of turbulent human encounters, prized by slave traders, religious figures and the fashion world.

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