Stand the Storm

Written by Breena Clarke
Review by Nan Curnutt

Sewing Annie Coats and her son Gabriel were born in slavery. Annie taught her son everything she knew about sewing so he could stay away from the fields and close to her. She taught him to be quiet and careful, to restrain his excitement, so he wouldn’t be rebuked or punished. She taught him to sew nearly perfect stitches, since perfect stitches might cause the devil to grab him up in his sleep. She wanted, above all, to keep him away from the fields, where a slave’s life was short and hard. Mother and son were devoted to each other. When she had a daughter, Ellen, three years later, Annie and Gabriel were devoted to her as well.

Because of his skill, Gabriel was loaned out as a tailor’s apprentice in Georgetown shortly before the Civil War. His mother and sister soon joined him. They operated a successful tailoring business for their master’s nephew. They eventually earned their freedom, but not a freedom from the tailoring shop they continued to operate for their master. When the Civil War began, the Coats’ new-found freedom was in jeopardy of being lost. Gabriel had to decide how important real freedom was to himself and his family. As the war overtakes Georgetown and Washington DC, the freedom they value so highly seems in danger of disappearing.

Breena Clarke writes a moving novel depicting the simple, yet profound love and devotion of mother and son as they struggle for true freedom for themselves and those they love. This love is like the stitches they sew; it holds the fabric of their lives together.