Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Mustard Seed by Laila Ibrahim






Oberlin, Ohio, 1868. Lisbeth Johnson was born into privilege in the antebellum South. Jordan Freedman was born a slave to Mattie, Lisbeth’s beloved nurse. The women have an unlikely bond deeper than friendship. Three years after the Civil War, Lisbeth and Mattie are tending their homes and families while Jordan, an aspiring suffragette, teaches at an integrated school.

When Lisbeth discovers that her father is dying, she’s summoned back to the Virginia plantation where she grew up. There she must face the Confederate family she betrayed by marrying an abolitionist. Jordan and Mattie return to Fair Oaks, too, to save the family they left behind, who still toil in oppression. For Lisbeth, it’s a time for reconciliation. For Jordan and Mattie, it’s time for liberation.

As the Johnsons and Freedmans confront the injustice that binds them, as well as the bitterness and violence that seethes at its heart, the women must find the courage to free their families—and themselves—from the past.


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About The Author


My experiences in multiracial, developmental psychology provided ample fodder for the story of Mattie and Lisbeth. I was the founder and director of Woolsey Children's School where I had first hand experience loving children that were not my own. There are scenes in the book that were largely influenced interactions I had with children from Woolsey. As a birth doula I have the privilege to witness the intensity and joy of childbirth. You can see that my birth experiences are reflected in the novel as well. I recently started working as the Director of Children and Family Ministries at the First Unitarian Church in Oakland. I live in a small co-housing community in Berkeley, California, with my wonderful wife, Rinda, our amazing children, Kalin and Maya, and our crazy dogs, Bella and Lucie. Yellow Crocus is my first novel. 



I was surprised when the writing bug bit me. The idea for the story came to me in 1998, I was with a group of people talking about Tiger Woods. Someone mentioned that he identifies as much as an Asian person as an African-American person. I thought to myself, "Of course he does, his mother is Asian. You form your core identity in relationship to your primary caregivers. It's a basic part of the attachment process."

Then the image of Lisbeth, a white baby, breastfeeding in the loving arms of Mattie, an enslaved wetnurse came to me in a flash. I thought about what it would be like for Lisbeth to dearly love Mattie and then be taught by society that she wasn't a full person. I wondered how it would feel for Mattie to be forced to abandon Samuel, her own child, in the slave Quarters. Then I imagined what the experience would be like for Miss Anne, the birth mother, to have her own child twist away from her to get into Mattie's arms. These characters started to haunt me. Various scenes popped into my head. Though I had never written anything, I was being called to tell this story. For my fortieth birthday, I began the personal marathon of writing my first novel. I hope you will come to love these characters as much as I have.

Some new characters are starting to haunt me. So I dare say there will be more books in my future.



My Review



As I turned the final page of this book, I know this book will long linger with me. Now this is the second book in this series, and yes I recommend that you read “Yellow Crocus”, you won’t be disappointed. While this story brings our main characters back to Virginia the first book was during the Civil War and we followed them out.
With this story the author has us returning to Virginia, and all the while I’m screaming to myself “No”, I can just feel frightened for them, and yet I had no idea how bad it could be.
Somehow all of our main characters from the first book end up back in Virginia, and we reunite with some of those that we would rather not see again. Lisbeth and her Mattie are here along with their children, and we visit the Plantation that originally brought them together. I loved Lisbeth’s six-year-old Sadie when she pointed out the green leaf with the white stripe and points out that she is sure that the flower is yellow, of course!
This trip back is an eye opener, and loved the Faith these people live, but will they all make it back? A page-turner for sure, I needed to know the ending.
I received this book through Net Galley and Lake Union Publishing, and was not required to give a positive review.
 


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