Sunday, June 24, 2007

A concertina-style book that folds neatly into itself and has two self-covers.
There are 6 panels on each side which give lots of scope for embellishment.

I used a variety of African-imported textiles.
The panels are embellished with kanta-style embroidery
and primitive cross-stiches and lots
of beads and buttons.
This was great fun to create.
I am using this book in a small class that I am teaching at artstream studio.

Below are 2 photos showing each side of the book.

This book doesn't have such as strong a narrative as I have done in the past.
It really was an exercise in color, texture and dimension.
When the concertina book is closed, there are 5 external spines which I beaded in several different ways. In the photos above and below, the spines are finished with beads made of bone interspersed with hand-made fabric beads that are entwined with metallic threads.

I really love the concertina book and have another that is about 95% complete.
This one is an "Homage" to Celia Thaxter.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

On my reading table. . . .

The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Kim Edwards
Viking 2005

I just finished reading this wonderful first novel by Kim Edwards, a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. The book, its compelling story and beautifully written narrative, was given much praise by other writers -- writers who I admire and read over and over again like Sue Monk Kidd, Jodi Picoult and Ursula Hegi.

The story begins in Lexengton, KY, 1964. Because of a snowstorm, a physician is forced to deliver his own twins with the assistance of his nurse. The first born is a boy, healthy and strong, "an 8 on the APGAR" the nurse reports to the doctor. The second, a girl, has all the physical characteristics of a baby with Down's Syndrome. In a moment of panic, the physician tells his nurse to take the baby away to a 'home for the feebleminded' where she can be with her 'own kind'. He tells his wife the twin died and the body taken away for burial. He truly believes his decision is right and it will protect his wife from hurt. But the decision turns out to portend a life of sadness, lies and mis-taken steps.
  • Chicago Tribune: Unfolds from an absolutely gripping premise, drawing you deeply and irrevocably into the entangled lives of two families and the devastating secret that shaped them both. I loved this riveting story.
  • Sue Monk Kidd: Anyone would be struck by the extraordinary power and sympathy of "The Memory Keepers Daughter.
  • Sena Jeter Naslund: Kim Edwards has created a tale of regret and redemption, of honest emotion, of characters haunted by their past. This is simply a beautiful book.

Caroline, the nurse and a single woman who believes her real life has not yet begun, prepares to take the infant to the 'home' but on arriving finds it such a horrific place, is unable to leave her there. And another of the powerful, life-altering decisions are made: Caroline decides to keep the child herself. She is not impulsive woman but a careful, conservative one so she does not run away with the child. A careful but quick departure is planned and executed.

And so the novel has presented us with powerful moral issues in its first pages. Even so early in the narrative, the reader feels a certain empathy for both David, the physician and Caroline, the nurse. We know these are basically good people; not evil or malevolent. These are well-intentioned choices.

Kim Edwards has said in an interview that a paster at her church 'gave' her the story -- planted the seed for the novel that grew overtime until later, a friend re-told a family tale of a brother who was institutionalized because of a genetic or birth defect.

The story unfolds around secrets and lies . . . lives built on lies . . . and how the lies shaped their lives and their marriage . . . and the secret silences that filled their homes, their hearts.

David felt he knew precisely the medical prognosis of the twin. He predicted a short life of illness, respiratory and cardiac problems. A short life of intellectual, physical, developmental retardation. A short life would be a sad and frustrating burden on the family.

A personal memoire: it is 1967. February in Massachusetts just after a blizzard. I have just come home from the hospital with my second child, Jonathan. Throughout the 4 or 5 days in the hospital I worried that 'something' wasn't 'right' but this was actively and vociferously denied by the ob-gyn and the staff pediatrician. At home, Jonathan was too quiet. Didn't seem to get hungry. Didn't cry. But he did have a frightening wheeze. I never left him alone; I carried him with me everywhere, from room to room. Finally, frightened, I phoned our pediatrician with my concerns; he agreed to stop by our house to look at Jonathan. (Yes, that was done in 1967. Imagine.) This doctor was a good doctor, one I liked and respected. He examined Jonathan. Held him over one large hand and let the arms and legs fall loosely, as in a mini-APGAR. Jonathan had no instinct or the ability to try to 'save' himself. The doctor turning to me said, "this is a mongol baby, you know; you'll have to institutionalize". To protect the child? To save the family? The town? The schools? What? Why? We did not institutionalize Jonathan.

What has changed since the 1960s.
are we a more enlightened society?
We have the right to education act
the civil rights of the disabled
and the ADA.
closed our state institutions.
But do we really have a more generous
attitude towards people with disabilities?