Yellow CrocusYellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really loved this book. It was a short and gripping read, both the early chapters focused on Mattie and the later ones centered around Lisbeth. Many have criticized its portrayal of slavery as not being brutal enough, but I disagree, seeing as how the story depicts quite accurately how slaves essentially had no dominion over their own bodies. Mattie is wrested from her own infant to provide milk to the mistress's newborn; she is later whipped when her husband escapes from a neighboring plantation. Mattie's son, Samuel, has no say when he is sold away from his mother (Mattie) at the young age of ten. And, most poignantly, a young, nameless slave girl has no say when Lisbeth's betrothed decides to "relieve his needs" by raping her under a willow tree. I don't need more graphic blood and gore to get the picture.

Mattie is a beautiful character whose fortitude, faith and graciousness are not obscured by her inhumane lot in life. Lisbeth is an unexpectedly sympathetic character grappling with the inextricable role her own station in life plays in the systemic injustices perpetuated upon her nurse and the fallacy of her mother's and fiance's flimsy justifications for slavery's unseemly way of life.

I especially love that the book is written by a local (Berkeley) author and possibly self-published (through Amazon). And I found the original cover haunting. This is clearly a real photograph, possibly of an actual slave and her charge. The young Black woman's mouth is blocked by the baby's head, which is apt if unintended symbolism. And her eyes, though not terribly clear, express unmistakable pain and sadness.

Highly recommend.

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