Last summer, my daughter Dana and I went to Spain. Dana took pictures of gardens and historic buildings, people and streets, and even our breakfast. So what did I photograph?
Tiles! Tiles at the Alhambra, in the Plaza de Espana, in the Real Alcazar and El Greco’s home in Toledo, on houses, museums, and anonymous buildings. Why? Because they reminded me so strongly of patchwork quilt patterns.
Patchwork, after all, is geometry. And tiles are almost always variations of squares and rectangles, just like patchwork quilts. The variety of color and design is endless in both. So instead of writing about me in this issue of Piecework, I want to show you some of the photographs I took of Spanish tiles.—SD
In my last issue of Piecework, I wrote about my problems in trying to write another book and wondered if the well had gone dry. Ok, so it really was an exercise in feeling sorry for myself. I was so buoyed by the unexpected reaction of readers. So many of you emailed words of encouragement and support and even kept me in your prayers. One woman even sought me out at the quilt festival in Houston to assure me I still had books to write. I was overwhelmed and humbled by the reaction. As I’ve said before, my readers aren’t just readers. They’re friends. Good friends.
I signed books at the Houston International Quilt Festival in November
Johnny Got His Gun.
By Dalton Trumbo. Lippincott.
Dalton Trumbo, who grew up in Grand Junction Colo., was one of the Hollywood writers blacklisted during the McCarthy era. So he wrote under a pseudonym, turning out such classics as “Roman Holiday” and “The Brave One.” Only years later was his work recognized. You might have seen “Trumbo,” the recent movie about him.
Trumbo was also a novelist. His first book was Eclipse, based his home town. For years, he was shunned in Grand Junction, but now the town claims him and has recognized him with a statue—Trumbo sitting in a bathtub, where he did much of his writing. I’ve just read his 1939 classic Johnny Got His Gun. It is a powerful book that haunts me the way Cormac McCarthy’s The Road does.
Joe Bonham is a young soldier who is horribly mutilated during World War I. He wakes to find himself deaf, then blind, and slowly, he realizes both his arms and legs are gone, his face shot away. He lies in bed for months, years, unable to know how much time passes. He has no way to communicate and knows there are human around him only when he feels the vibrations of footsteps or feels a nurse changing his bedding.
As he lies there, he recounts his life—growing up in a fictionalized Grand Junction, his relationship with his father, his first girlfriend, his friends. He remembers the smell of apple butter and of apple jelly dripping through a flour sack. Eventually he realizes he can communicate through tapping his head in a sort of Morris code, but no one knows what he’s doing. Then he concludes a young nurse is writing Merry Christmas on his body, and she eventually understands he is tapping out “Help” with his head.
This is an enormously disturbing antiwar book that I can’t get out of my mind.
My Life on the Road.
By Gloria Steinem. Random House.
You know from that piece I wrote about discrimination awhile back that I’m a long-time feminist. And admirer of Gloria Steinem. My Life on the Road is not her best book, but it is worth reading, only to show that we have come a long way.
This is a personal journey for Steinem, who says she has spent more time on the road during her life, than at home. Her father was rootless. He was never happier than when he was packing up the family and taking off, not just for vacations but to live as vagabonds. Steinem’s mother suffered from depression, and eventually divorced her husband, only to become dependent on Gloria, then a child. Life was tough for Steinem, who was rescued by her older sister.
The author recounts her days of travel, organizing protests and feminist organizations, lecturing, being both ridiculed and praised. She writes of being upgraded to first class by flight attendants after Steinem protested the sexist “I’m Sandy, Fly Me” airline campaign. She tells of a nightclub owner who insisted his waitresses loved their jobs and were never harassed. One waitress wrote Steinem that the man lied. In fact the business was partly owned by Bill Cosby.
Perhaps the most moving story came early in the feminist movement when Steinem was asked to give a speech at Harvard Law School about discrimination against women. An angry professor railed at her after she was finished, said women didn’t belong in law school and suggested Steinem was a troublemaker. Point taken.—SD
Contact Sandra at email@example.com