Everyday Use

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A quilt a made to celebrate the wedding of my young friends Carie and Ben.

I have a friend who doesn’t make quilts for gifts because she fears they won’t get used.

Who wouldn’t use a quilt, I wonder? But I suppose for some people quilts are such rare and valuable things that actually using them seems like sacrilege. When quilts get used, they get dirty. Sometimes they get torn, sometimes the dog chews holes in them. It just seems wrong to treat a quilt as something other than a work of art.

Of course if you’re a quilter and your quilt gets stained or torn, you make another one. In fact, you probably have half a dozen stored in the linen closet.

It’s a long-running debate: are quilts artifacts or are they blankets?

This brings us to today’s quilt story: Alice Walker’s “Everyday Use,” which appears in her collection Love and Trouble, but is also available online (I’ve included a link below). “Everyday Use” tells the story of an unnamed woman and her two young adult daughters, Maggie and Dee. The mother and Maggie still live at home—home being a three-room house with a tin roof and a dirt yard—while prodigal daughter Dee has gone off to college and the larger world. Her return home for a visit is the story’s triggering event.

Dee has come home to ask for things she once turned up her nose at, including a handmade butter churn and two quilts stored in a trunk. What she’d once seen as old-fashioned, she now declares priceless parts of her African-American heritage. But her mother insists the quilts are to go with Maggie when she marries, news that infuriates Dee.

“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she complains. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.”

As far as Dee’s concerned, these quilts should be hung on the wall and admired (she plans to display the butter churn as an art object as well). As far as her mother is concerned, you wear a quilt out and then you make another one. Quilts are made to be used. That’s the whole point.

I give people quilts all the time, and I hope they’re used. But then like the mother in “Everyday Use,” I’m a quilter. If you wear out my quilt, I’ll make you another.

 

To read “Everyday Use” online, go here:

https://www.deanza.edu/faculty/leonardamy/Everyday%20Use.pdf

Here is a wonderful interview Alice Walker gave about quilts to the writer/photographer Roland Freeman. Well worth your time!

http://mrgravuer.wikispaces.com/file/view/Interview+With+Alice+Walker.pdf

Loving Books, and Quilts

meeting-of-the-geese-quiltThe most common question I’m asked as a writer is “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is: my life, my childhood, stories people tell me about their lives and childhoods (be careful what you reveal about yourself to a writer!), newspaper articles, observations I make while wandering through my day … as Nora Ephron liked to say, everything is copy.

But sometimes the idea for a book doesn’t come from a memory or a news story. Sometimes I write the book I want to read.

Now, I like to read all sorts of books, but sometimes what I really want to read is a book that’s about women and families and houses and friendship. Call it domestic fiction or women’s fiction or cozy fiction. What I’m looking for is a book that’s realistic, funny, well-written, with characters I like (even the unlikeable ones). A book I can sink into and enjoy, that engages me without making me work too hard as a reader. A book that’s best read in front of a fire or out on the screen porch.

And of course I like a book with a few good quilts in it.

If you look at the Quilter’s Bookshelf, you’ll find that there tons of quilt novels out there, more than you might have guessed. Personally, I’m a big fan of Marie Bostwick’s books and think more quilters should know about the marvelous Sandra Dallas. I think we’re all familiar with that lively group of quilters in Jennifer Chiaverini’s Elm Creek Quilters series.

Reading these writers made me want to write my own quilt story. I wanted to write about trying to find community when you’re middle-aged and new to town (it’s hard!), about balancing out motherhood and the creative life, and I wanted to write about quilts. When I wrote Birds in the Air, I had an audience of quilters in mind, readers who know what a half-square triangle is and who understand the joy of Show & Tell. While I hope all sorts of people can enjoy Birds in the Air, my dream audience is made up of quilters who love quilts and love making quilts as much as I do.

I wrote the book I wanted to read, and I hope you’ll want to read it, too.

The purpose of this blog is to tell you about what I’m reading and what’s inspiring me, and to share some true quilt stories, too. While you’re here, I hope you’ll sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter for more updates from my writing and quilting life (and maybe a recipe or two!).

Thanks for stopping by. More soon!

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