The Lost Quilter
More than one story must be repeatedly told so that we remember! In a northern American town, Sylvia Bergstrom discovers a packet of old letters ranging from 1868 to 1897, letters whose author is begging for information about a former slave, Joanna, and her son, Mr. Douglass Frederick. So begins the prologue to Joanna’s life as a seamstress/laundress slave in the pre- and post-Civil War southern states of Virginia and South Carolina.
One must mourn the brutality of her existence as she is captured as a runaway slave, beaten almost to death, sold to satisfy a white woman’s greed for beautiful clothes, marries only to be separated from her husband and child, reunites with her child, and so much more standing in stark contrast to the hope she sustains. Waiting for her emancipation, she creates a historically famous quilt, the Birds in the Air quilt which holds secret clues to the route to freedom in the North of America. Two objects symbolize Joanna’s undaunted spirit: a silver needle case holding the tools of her incredible talent, and a corn boiler pot which can hold precious water to drink or be used to heat water for cooking. Woven through Joanna’s tale is a realistic, vivid picture of secession, the taking and surrender of Ft. Sumter, the blockade of Charleston, South Carolina, the burning of this famous city and finally the war in which whites and slaves fought for very mixed motives.
The Lost Quilter transcends an objectified view of slavery; it’s a tribute to a terrible historical period and the noble, all-too-human beings attempting to fulfill promises and dreams. Readers will be swept into this heart-rending, beautiful story, a fine example of great historical fiction, and will definitely remember the cost of precious freedom.