Ludelphia Bennett has quilting in her fingertips, her heart and her brain. Her 10 years of life have been both a challenge and a joy. Blind in one eye and wearing a patch, Lu works alongside her mother and father caring for the animals and fields they sharecrop. Her closest companion is Delilah, her beloved mule. Lu’s family lives in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, far from any town or city or signs of modernity, but not far from the ravages of the Great Depression.

When Lu’s mother is on the edge of death following the birth of a daughter, the young girl makes a rash decision that changes her life and the lives of the people of Gee’s Bend. Tucking her quilting in her pocket, Lu decides to trek to Camden, the nearest town, where she hears there is a doctor who might help her ailing mother. Lu’s journey, like most heroic quests, brings her face-to-face with strange folks and new situations that will test her and change her.

Running like a solid thread through this captivating novel are the words of Lu’s mother, spoken while she taught her daughter about quilting. Lu has learned that a quilt needs to be balanced and that, if you make a mistake with color or stitching, you need to take the quilt apart and start again. Look for fabric wherever you are, even in the home of a crazed white woman who holds your fate, and the fate of all the folks of Gee’s Bend, in her hand. Tell your story through your quilt.

Irene Latham stitches a beautiful word quilt of her own with Leaving Gee’s Bend, which is based on the real history of the community. There was a time when the owner’s wife foreclosed on all the residents of the Bend, taking all their animals and tools as collateral, leaving them unable to farm or cook. And the Red Cross really did step in and save the settlement. Today the stunning Gee’s Bend quilts are shown in exhibits around the world. Latham has looked behind the genius of their handiwork and told a tale that will stay with the reader forever—just like a quilt.

Robin Smith is stitching an improvisational quilt, inspired by the quilters of Gee’s Bend.

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