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Publisher's Summary

When we think of slavery, most of us think of the American South. We think of back-breaking fieldwork on plantations. We don't think of slavery in the North, nor do we think of the grueling labor of urban and domestic slaves. Rachel May's rich new book explores the far reach of slavery, from New England to the Caribbean, the role it played in the growth of mercantile America, and the bonds between the agrarian South and the industrial North in the antebellum era - all through the discovery of a remarkable quilt.

While studying objects in a textile collection, May opened a veritable treasure-trove: a carefully folded, unfinished quilt made of 1830s-era fabrics, its backing containing fragile, aged papers with the dates 1798, 1808, and 1813, the words "shuger", "rum", "casks", and "West Indies", repeated over and over, along with "friendship", "kindness", "government", and "incident". The quilt top sent her on a journey to piece together the story of Minerva, Eliza, Jane, and Juba - the enslaved women behind the quilt - and their owner, Susan Crouch.

May brilliantly stitches together the often-silenced legacy of slavery by revealing the lives of these urban enslaved women and their world. Beautifully written and richly imagined, An American Quilt is a luminous historical examination and an appreciation of a craft that provides such a tactile connection to the past.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.  

©2018 Rachel May (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Superb!

A fascinating book, taking a 19th century quilt as the jumping-off point for the exploration of enslavement in the United States: of attitudes then and now, of assumptions and discoveries and of the complicity of north and south, the former especially largely hidden and unacknowledged even today. A book everyone should read, a paean to the unquenchable dignity of many of the enslaved, and also a domestic story, enlarged by attention to detail and by the individual stories of the enslaved women of a single family. The audiobook is beautifully narrated by Carrington MacDuffie, the book itself distinguished by Rachel May’s meticulous research and willingness to question her own assumptions. 5 stars.

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  • giles peterson
  • 06-30-18

the narration brilliant, the story interesting but

the narration was brilliant, and the story was brilliant for the first half, how the quilt was discovered, the unpacking and detective work of the story - but there were so many ' what if ', 'i imagined', i imagined, i imagined ' i stopped half way after the death of the little boy and his father and after the return of the widow to providence, rhode island. I realise this is a major piece of scholarship and very important, but ' i can imagine that... " after 200 times etc just began to draw attention away from the power of the story and relationship. Perhaps the editor could have been more vigorous. Still if i return to read the book . i dont know.
i asked for a refund as i was dissatisfied, but audible says my return of the book is not possible. not sure why. i think i may cancel my membership. oh well. It is a shame as i am very interested in quilts and the premise of this book and the detective work of the author is preety awe - inspiring. yes. not happy. half, half.