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Moments after her birth to the mistress of a sprawling Virginia plantation, Lisbeth Wainwright is entrusted to Mattie, an enslaved wet nurse. From then on, Mattie serves as Lisbeth's stand-in mother, nursing her, singing her to sleep, and soothing her in the night. And yet mothering Lisbeth tears Mattie away from her own baby, Samuel, who lives in the slave quarters. Growing up under Mattie's tender care, Lisbeth adopts her traditions of prayer, singing, eating black-eyed peas, and hunting for yellow crocuses in the spring. As the years pass, Lisbeth is drawn back into the white world, earning a growing awareness of the inequality of her and Mattie's stations. She struggles to reconcile her love for Mattie with her parents' expectations for her future, intent on keeping the best of both worlds-until a terrible betrayal forces her to choose once and for all. Yellow Crocus is a compelling novel of love, loss, and redemption set during one of the most sinister chapters of American history.
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I was surprised when the writing bug bit me. The idea for YELLOW CROCUS came to me in 1998; I was with a group of people talking about Tiger Woods. Someone mentioned that he identifies as much as an Asian person as an African-American person. I thought, "Of course he does, his mother is Asian. You form your core identity in relationship to your primary caregivers. It's a basic part of the attachment process."Then the image of Lisbeth, a white baby, breastfeeding in the loving arms of Mattie, an enslaved wetnurse came to me in a flash. I thought about what it would be like for Lisbeth to dearly love Mattie and then be taught by society that she wasn't a full person. I wondered how it would feel for Mattie to be forced to abandon Samuel, her own child, in the slave Quarters. Then I imagined what the experience would be like for Miss Anne, the birth mother, to have her own child twist away from her to get into Mattie's arms. These characters started to haunt me. Various scenes popped into my head. Though I had never written anything, I was being called to tell this story. For my fortieth birthday, I began the personal marathon of writing my first novel. I hope you will come to love these characters as much as I have.My experiences in multiracial, developmental psychology provided ample fodder for the story of Mattie and Lisbeth. I was the founder and director of Woolsey Children's School where I had first hand experience loving children that were not my own. As a birth doula I have the privilege to witness the intensity and joy of childbirth. You can see that my birth experiences are reflected in the novel as well. I live in a small co-housing community in Berkeley, California, with my wonderful wife, Rinda, our amazing children, Kalin and Maya, and our crazy dogs, Bella and Lucie. YELLOW CROCUS is my first novel. Some new characters are starting to haunt me. So I dare say there will be more books in my future.Review:
"Yellow Crocus is an engaging, thought-provoking story. It's a must-read for anyone who enjoys Antebellum historical fiction or is looking for a compelling story to add to their book club reading list." —Katerie Prio, ForeWord Clarin
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