By Laila Ibrahim
It doesn’t happen often for me that I come across a book that really leaves me in awe. Certainly I have had a plethora of great books catch my attention, but Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim is in a class all its’ own. And to be frank, I’m almost at a loss for words; so perhaps I’ll just start with the easy stuff.
As most everyone who has ever picked up a textbook in the United States knows (or should know), the mid- to late 1800’s weren’t exactly easy times for those Blacks living in this country, predominately the South. There are some Blacks, during this time, that felt those Blacks who worked indoors - as opposed to out beneath the beating sun in the fields -had it, in many ways, better than others. Yellow Crocus tells a story of Mattie, an indoor slave. As for her story, I’m going to let you decide what to think.
Mattie lived on a large plantation-type home in the South specifically in the slave quarters that lay behind the giant willow tree out back of the main house. She was married in 1857 when she was 20-years-old. At the age of 20 she gave birth to her son Samuel. At the same time, the mistress of the house, Ann, gives birth to her daughter, Elizabeth. Right off Mattie is taken into the main house to care for as a wet nurse to the baby girl – known from that point on as Lisbeth.
The expectation at that point, as far as Mattie and her family knew, was that she would care for the infant until such a time that Emily, the second floor maid, can take the reins. However, it doesn’t end up happening quite that way. She is told that she will be the personal nurse for Lisbeth. For Mattie this is a decision she feels ambivalent about. She loves her son and husband dearly, of course wanting to be with them as often as possible. However, she has a maternal-like love for Lisbeth as well.
As Lisbeth grows older, she is intuitive enough to know the conflict that rages within Mattie. She feels slight guilt but knows that due to her own mother’s issues, she needs Mattie more than she should. They try to spend time outside beneath the large trees near the slave quarters so that the children can both benefit from Mattie’s presence.
Times begin to change in the United States to make it possible for Mattie and her family to become free of the bounds that have tied them to the house all these many years. The time arises where Mattie, Emmanuel and Samuel are able to begin a life on their own with more rights than they have ever had and so they do. And around the same time it is Lisbeth’s time to start making decisions that will dictate her future life – have to leave a little for you to learn about!! Will the two meet again?
I cannot say enough how brilliantly written Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim is. I fear I may have already given more details away than I should have, but I hope there is just enough to peak your interest so you’ll scoop this one up as soon as you’ve finished reading this review. YES, it is that good! As a precautionary note, this book does involve some mild sexual content as well as violence, but – in my opinion – not enough to exclude it from a young adult or mature middle to read.