Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Quilts in the Attic" by Karen S. Musgrave --flaws and all

A beautifully made book arrived at my house today. It is a complimentary copy of Karen. S. Musgrave's "Quilts in the Attic." This collection of 30 stories of great quilt discoveries includes the story of my fish and baskets quilt.

When I first saw Karen's call for stories, I submitted mine. I've written several times about this quilt myself and sent her a copy of one of my articles. I was thrilled when she said she wanted to include it in her book. Karen is quite involved in the S.O.S. Quilts project and Alliance for American Quilts. She's been collecting people's stories for years.

The book itself is beautifully made. Smaller with quality paper, nicely bound, hardcover and quality photography. Nothing too imaginative, artsy or creative in the layout. It is solid and plain like many of the people and quilts featured in the book. Just holding it is a thrill. I don't often see books so finely constructed. It would make a beautiful gift. A quality gift. If you go by the construction of the book itself.

Sadly the content is flawed. My heart broke when I read what she'd written about my Fish and Baskets quilt. Perhaps it is only my story that is screwed up. But I suspect that there were other errors made in other stories. To hold this book with any kind of historic or truthful, factual accuracy in the recounting of these stories would also be an error.

I exchanged several emails and photos with Karen to provide her with the information she needed for my story. Yet some of the information I supplied was either misunderstood or overlooked. According to Karen I am an only child, much to my brother's surprise and our mother goes by the name Leah. She despised that name and always went by Gladys. I emphasized that time and again. And yet again. She also said Mom had three brothers, no they were step brothers and her mother was 48 not 42 when Mom was born....

It is a shame I wasn't given a galley of the final story for me to correct.

My Fish and Baskets Quilt
Karen also discounts the belief that Mom and Grandma shared. The belief that nothing was perfect but God's work. It was perhaps said tongue in cheek, but it was an often used belief that other women in the community shared. They all used it quite often as an excuse to dismiss or not correct mistakes. But hey, I guess Karen knows the conversations that went on in our household better than I do.
It is sad that such a lovely book has to be so badly flawed -- at least in the story that I'm most familiar with. I can't speak for the other stories, they may be perfectly recounted.

I'm a writer and I specialize in profiles and I know how frustrating it is for writer and subject to be misrepresented or facts reported incorrectly. I'm mourning these mistakes because I had really wanted this book to be an heirloom that I could give to my sons, to my brother, so that a part of our history would be forever written. But sadly my family would laugh this story off as a joke.

Sad for us and sad for Karen because I know she worked very hard to compile this information. I'm just sorry that she couldn't maintain the accuracy that such a lovely book deserves. There are, sadly, typos that went uncorrected. I guess this is an example of one of those 'only God makes perfect things.'

For quilt lovers who are not familiar with the facts of the stories in this book, it would make a delightful read and a lovely gift. I just can't read it with any trust in its accuracy.

NOTE: Still a few days to leave your comments on the previous blog for a chance to win a free copy of Rayna Gillman's newest book. Drawing will be held Jan. 15, 2012.


Brenda said...

ooooooh. I'm a writer and journalist and I cringed when I read your story about your story. Sounds like a rushed job or failure to fact check. either way, I can' think of a good excuse for not verifying content when going to the expense of writing and publishing a book. I feel your pain!

liniecat said...

What a disappointment that must be for you. Maybe Karen didnt write it or proof read it herself in the end. And yes as a record of social quilt history the book has failed. Such a great shame.

Maggey and Jim said...

I am so sorry about all the facts in that book. I would love to read YOUR story on that quilt.. Why is it called FISH and baskets??
Hope you are having a blessed day.

Dawn said...

Maggey -- Thanks, it was disappointing, but it happens. If you want to read more about the quilt, please check out this page of my blog: http://subversivestitch.blogspot.com/2010/10/fish-n-baskets-quilt-family-story.html

Thanks for your interest.

Dawn said...

Oh, and here's the essay about the quilt that I sold to Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0612/p18s02-hfes.html

Maggey and Jim said...

I really enjoyed the story.. Have you contacted Barbara Brackman?
She is a quilt historian and can help you date your quilt..She is very knowledgeable.. Sending prayers to your family..

Steph said...

Even with the flaws, I am sure it's full of interesting stories.

Anonymous said...

that is sad.

there's enough accidental inaccuracy in memories to not add more to it with poor work.

i'm actually not much for quilt/quilt history books and am far more interested in those that are published under the category of sociology.

it seems, though i've no way of knowing this, that they're a touch more scientific in their research.

Ulla's Quilt World said...

Your quilts/crafts are so fantastic! It's so nice to find other quilters all around the world!
Hugs, Ulla (from Finland)

jpd said...

Dawn, I know this is way after you wrote this post but I've been checking links tonight. My story in the book renamed my children! Like you I wanted it to be an heirloom for them but they must think I had a secret family some place. It was very disappointing.


Dawn said...

I feel your pain and disappointment Janice. {{hugs}}