September 22, 2023
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Book Reviews Memoir Non-Fiction

Quilt Of Souls Has It All: Art, Craft, And Great Tales

Author: Phyllis Biffle Elmore

Genre: NonFiction – Memoir

Year Published: 2022

Nerdection Rating:

“Nerdection Must Read”

Phyllis Biffle Elmore’s Quilt of Souls is a classic five-star memoir that you won’t regret picking up. It is a stellar tale of a girl brought up lovingly by her grandmother. Along the way, she learns the biases against people of her skin, and how her grandmother surfaced through them, as a strong woman. Now Phyllis passes on this tale to you to be nurtured.

What makes Quilt of Souls a must-read? Let’s dive into this hymn to the slogan ‘black lives matter.’

About the Memoir Quilt of Souls

In the midst of the scorching heat of Alabama, little Phyllistene is plucked from her home and brought to her grandmother’s house. Grandma Lula, a strong woman who had suffered a lot due to the color of her skin, helped her adjust to her new surroundings.

With a knack for stitching quilts and narrating stories, Phyllistine quickly fell for Grandma. She will soon learn that people from all over come to Lula, with their departed one’s clothes, to be sewn back as quilts. Quilts of souls, she called them, for they believed those souls to watch over the owners of the quilts.

In this value-packed memoir, Quilt of Souls, Phyllis Biffle Elmore recalls her cherished childhood that was filled with grandmother’s stories and the company of strong women. This helped her become an altogether better person. Combined with the cultural and social circumstances of that age, her chef d’oeuvre will resonate with people of all ages and backgrounds.

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My take on Quilt of Souls

Quilt of souls masterfully weaves the social, political and ethnic background of the African-America in 1800’s, highlighting the prejudices the black people had to go through. But it’s not only that.

There is a sweetness to it too, like a bitter-sweet chocolate. Reading this, not only you will enjoy Grandma Lula’s wholesome stories, your heart will break and then mend again, filled with tragic wonder.

Although, Quilt of Souls is a story about Phyllistine, her grandma and her quilts. But most of all, this story brought to life tales of the unsung heroes — the brave and the courageous and those that life crushed savagely — people who suffered due to their black skins. And the memoir did this quite right.

The book is also a tribute to art and artists, both fine and crude: the storytellers and the stitchers, the laundresses and the teachers too. Everybody who make things happen.

Throughout the book, I struggled to keep my tears in check. The heart-wrenching stories of these generations-ago people flipped a switch inside me. I had no idea Quilt of Souls would connect with me at an emotional level. Yet it did.

I loved Grandma Lula. Totally. People of her caliber and spirits are hard to find, and I’d want very much to age like she did: gracefully.

‘Grandma wanted her girls to have their own minds and be able to shoulder the load, whatever life threw at them.’

Fans of Maya Angelou are bound to love this memoir. I’d also recommend this book to people wrecked by feminism, sexism, and colorism, and want to come out better and braver. This African-American tale of platonic love, family and friends will stay and bloom within you forever.

Trigger Warnings

Deaths of family members, sexual assault, violence. Recommend for ages 14+ due to mentions of sexism/colorism and heavily emotional content.

About The Author Of Quilt of Souls

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Phyllis Biffle Elmore was sent at the age of four to the tiny town of Livingston, Alabama, to be raised by her grandmother, Lula Horn. In 1973, she joined the United States Air Force, and her military career included service during the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom. She served as an aviation operations specialist and equal opportunity advisor until she retired from the US Army in 2013. Her civilian career has included working as a counselor for incarcerated youth and women victims of domestic violence, and ten years as a counseling supervisor for youth and adults suffering from alcohol and substance abuse.
Phyllis spends her free time binging on Netflix and Hulu programs, power walking, aerobic fitness classes, spectator sports and face timing with granddaughters. One of my greatest skills is historical research on lost and/or unknown family members. Over the past ten years, I’ve completed over seventy five family research projects for clients.
Phyllis has traveled extensively, telling the stories of her grandmother’s quilts of souls in the media and as a guest speaker at libraries, genealogical conventions, quilting clubs, book clubs, colleges, and schools throughout the United States. She has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County and a master’s certificate in creative writing from the University of Denver. She lives in Florida with her husband, Reginald Elmore, and has seven granddaughters who are the love of her life.

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