Yellow Crocus by Laila Ibrahim

Mattie is a slave living on a plantation before emancipation. When Lisbeth is born to the mistress of the house, Mattie’s own son is still a newborn, so she is sent inside the house to be wet nurse to baby Lisbeth. A beautiful and loving relationship between Mattie and Lisbeth blossoms and continues throughout their lives, complicated by the nature of their positions within the household and Mattie’s love for her own husband and children. As Lisbeth grows she is taught how the world works for people of her status, but as she matures she begins to see the flaws in her world and the violent inequalities between her life and the life of Mattie. Both Mattie and Lisbeth face tremendous heartbreaks and decisions that change the shape of their worlds on their road to a lovely but bittersweet final chapter. Ibrahim writes with great tenderness about the delicate, emotional nature of the love a woman bears for a child she nurses and raises but did not birth, and the all-consuming love and need a child (and even a grown woman) holds for the woman who raised her even if that woman did not birth her. Yellow Crocus boasts an incredibly realistic birth scene—this should not be surprising, as the author is a doula (a woman who assists a laboring woman in childbirth). Ibrahim has infused an historical novel with genuine feeling while tackling complicated relationships in such a difficult time with courage and heart.

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