Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wild Card Quilt - a book review

Wild Card Quilt by Janisse Ray

Descended from Georgia Crackers, Janisse Ray offers this collection of stories about growing up in rural Georgia, they ring true to this Georgia girl, so many things I can identify with.

She tells of going back home to south Georgia at the age of 35, after moving away 18 years before. Upon her return, she moved into her grandmother's farm house, empty for 5 years since her death.
"after Grandmama died, I sat in her swept yard, listening to stories while neighbors brought chicken and dumplings, pans of rolls, pound cakes"

Janisse tells us about life in the small town of Baxley, Georgia, of life on the farm, stories of family and community, of her passion for saving the forests where she grew up. The chapter titles themselves give great insight into the story - Calico Scraps, Log Trucks at the Crossroads, The Bread Man Still Stops in Osierfield.

I was first drawn to the book by the quilt references. Janisse and her mother together make a quilt, the ritual of going through the calico scraps and finding the perfect matches to tell her quilt story, of layering the quilt and batting and back - "it was like making a pie - crust, filling, crust" - of trying to set up the quilt frame (and hearing her ghostly Grandmama laughing every time it fell):

"a ghost is like a quilt in that both are made of stories, both are made to wear out, both represent a life spent, and those parts left behind"

But more often is mentioned the importance of the stories that bind together the friends and families, stories to collect and tell and pass down through the generations. She tells of preserving the old ways, of saving seeds from the garden for next year, alligator trapping, making quilts, and having a cane-syrup boiling.
"In south Georgia our sweetener is cane syrup, boiled from the pressed juice of sugarcane… we sop it up with hot biscuits and pour it over griddle cakes and wet our cornbread with it".
I love these stories of Georgia country, I can identify with so many of them, well except for maybe this one about catching a gator that made me laugh out loud:
"This is more fun than eating boiled peanuts naked on the courthouse lawn."
Her beautiful descriptions take me back to my childhood, reminding me once again what a beautiful place we live, uncrowded, acres of forest all around, reminded me of the importance of community and family and history and of course the stories. We must preserve the stories.
"Perhaps stories keep us as a people in place glued together. As the stories vanish or are lost - as people depart homeplaces, as the landscapes are destroyed - no new stories form to replace them. Without the stories that fasten us each to each, the web that is community commences to unravel, its threads flapping in the wind, finally tearing loose completely and wafting away."

We must preserve the stories. If you have family stories you love to hear, please write them down, gather them up, bind them together, make a collection, pass them down, don't let the stories disappear.

~photo of family quilt handed down

1 comment:

Linda J said...

sounds like a good read!