All YA Love: Guest Post on Fate by Irene Latham

Filed in All YA Love , Irene Latham , The Monster Lover Posted on March 17, 2010 @ 7:00 am 0 comments

It is our pleasure to have with us today Irene Latham, author of ‘LEAVING GEE’S BEND’.

Fate, destiny, serendipity… whatever you want to call it, YES, I’m a believer.  I even wrote and published a poem once entitled “Creed,” which proclaimed, among other things, “I believe in serendipity,/ coincidence, random/ accidents that defy explanation/ because there is no explaining pain/ or the lack of it.”  And when I think about how I came to write LEAVING GEE’S BEND, I see all sorts of fateful occurrences, as if this story was inside me all along, waiting for me to finally get to a point where I could put it on the page.

It all started with my mother, who is an amazing seamstress.  I grew up watching her create magic out of plain pieces of fabric, and while I didn’t always appreciate it (especially when I was in middle school and wearing very un-cool homemade clothes), I certainly learned to see the love in homespun gifts.  Then I married a man whose grandmother lived to quilt, and whose mother was a great appreciator of quilts.  So quilts and other textile arts continued to be a regular part of my life – showing up in our home décor, and given as gifts and even in my own humble attempts at the craft.

 But, even though it’s virtually in my own back yard, I’d never even heard of the quilting tradition in Gee’s Bend until my husband and I were on an airplane headed for the Big Apple. That’s when  I saw the advertisement in New York magazine for The Quilts of Gee’s Bend exhibition, and right away I knew I wanted to see it.

Only, it was the LAST DAY of the exhibit.  Which meant if we were going to see it, we would have to hop in a taxi at LaGuardia and go immediately to the Whitney Museum of Modern Art.  So that’s what we did.  And when we got there, the line of people waiting to see the exhibit stretched around the block.  And it was a blustery fall day, and we with only our Alabama coats and a whole list of other things we wanted to do in the City…  but for whatever mysterious reason, I insisted we see that exhibit.  So we people watched and snuggled and after about two hours, found ourselves just outside the exhibit hall. 

Did I know my life was about to change?  I think maybe part of me did.  Fate is funny that way – we recognize it like a familiar face at the grocery.  But I sure couldn’t have imagined at the time how my own story—and Ludelphia’s story — would begin to take shape much like a Gee’s Bend quilt, that I would use the fabric at hand in a design of my own choosing, each stitch a testament to love and strength and how the things of most value in life are those born of necessity, with at least a little dash of destiny thrown in to keep things lively.

About the book:

A young girl sets out to save her sick mother and records her adventures in quilt pieces.

Ludelphia Bennett may be blind in one eye, but she can still put in a good stitch. Ludelphia sews all the time, especially when things go wrong.

But when Mama goes into labor early and gets deathly ill, it seems like even quilting won’t help. That’s when Ludelphia decides to do something drastic—leave Gee’s Bend for the very first time. Mama needs medicine that can only be found miles away in Camden. But that doesn’t stop Ludelphia. She just puts one foot in front of the other. What ensues is a wonderful, riveting and sometimes dangerous adventure. Ludelphia weathers each challenge in a way that would make her mother proud, and ends up saving the day for her entire town. 

Set in 1932 and inspired by the rich quilting history of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, Leaving Gee’s Bend is a delightful, satisfying story of a young girl facing a brave new world.

About the Author:

Irene Latham is a poet and novelist who writes heart-touching tales of unexpected adventure. Her debut midgrade historical novel LEAVING GEE’S BEND (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2010) is set in Alabama during the Great Depression. A resident of Birmingham, Alabama, for the past 25 years, she has published over 120 poems of various books, journals and anthologies, including a full-length collection WHAT CAME BEFORE, which was named Alabama State Poetry Society’s book of the Year and earned a 2008 Independent Publisher’s (IPPY) Award. Irene loves exploring new places and often uses “research” as an excuse to travel. Her favorite characters in books and real life are those who have the courage to go their own way.

To learn more about Irene, visit

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