Can a quilt about the life of Harriet Tubman help a 20-something girl in 21st century California overcome a racial barrier?
That’s the question author Kathi Macias seeks to answer with the first book in her new quilt series, The Moses Quilt. The story centers on Mazie, a young woman on the cusp of her adult life. She lives with her mother and great-grandmother in California. Mimi, the great-grandmother, has moved from the Deep South, and Mazie serves as her caregiver most days. Besides caring for her grandmother, Mazie faces the dilemma of whether to marry her boyfriend, Edward, or not. He’s asked her and she keeps putting him off, presumably because he’s black and she’s not. As Mimi’s health starts to fade, she begins to share the story of the Moses quilt with Mazie and Edward. Through her stories, they learn about Harriet Tubman’s life and the obstacles she overcame to become the Moses of her people.
One of the aspects of Macias’ writing I appreciate is her willingness to tackle hard subjects in her novels. She’s written about sex trafficking, Islam, immigration and homelessness, and she does it superbly, putting faces and real situations on topics that are often debated and argued without thought to real people and real circumstances.
I didn’t enjoy this book as much I hoped I would. Mazie’s struggles with her boyfriend’s race seemed a little outdated for 21st century America, but it’s also possible I’m naive about such prejudices as their existence today. It was hard for me to empathize with her hesitation. She loved him, she should marry him, I thought. And the overall development of the story felt slow to me. Because one of the characters was a 93-year-old woman, all they seemed to do in the story was eat meals together and sit by the bedside and listen to stories from the past. And when they weren’t doing that, they were talking about the story they’d heard.
I just couldn’t get into it, and that made me sad.
Macias plans two more books in the quilt series, and I may still check those out. She is a good storyteller, and even at the end of this story, I was moved to tears. Maybe if I was a quilter, I would have appreciated the explanation of the quilt squares more.