The Keeping Quilt By Patricia Polacco: A book reflection

As part of the initiative book buddy in the library group for MHPs two of our therapists read this wonderful book ‘The Keeping Quilt’. Their reflections made me curious to give it a read. I read the book and did not feel satiated enough and checked out the book and kept it with me for a week. During this week I travelled with the book, allowed myself to read it with my child, just have a look at it, notice the first thing that comes to my mind when I look at the book or just looking at the pictures.

This is a book of holding close to one’s family and roots when being physically in a different country/region. Author Patricia Polacco talks about her family that migrated from Russia to the US and how they keep close to their families in Russia by sewing a quilt out of clothes of several members of the family and making a border of the beautiful babushka (a headscarf).

The backdrop of the book of migration from Russia reminded me of the other book that I read ‘A man’s search for meaning’ by Victor Frankl. This book focuses on the author’s experiences in the concentration camp in Auschwitz as a prisoner and what helped him hold on to hope and survive the camp. It was the love for his wife and hope to see her again.

Thinking from that perspective of war and holocaust, what caught my attention really is the fact that for several generations the bride’s bouquet had only salt, bread and flowers, which means the struggle with hunger, losing loved ones was the prominent theme in their lives in Russia. When author got married it was the first-time wine was included in her wedding bouquet which says so much about the trauma of death and war and how even though families could have moved to safer places physically it takes decades to allow that joy/pleasure to be present in their lives.

Interestingly when I read it with my 9 year old child, the first thing he noticed was the inclusion of wine in the bouquet and asked if wine as a new addition to bouquet and dancing have some connection? This I felt was very profound for his age. I also felt that this is the quilt that we share, to be able to sense subtle things around us. The book also got reminded me of my loved ones whom we lost in the journey of life and how a corner of my heart I still feel the warmth of their love and care. It feels like we are all protected by the invisible quilts of our families. Reading this book made me feel grounded, acknowledge the depth of being human and feeling in connection with our ancestors.

Coming from a space of privileged caste and identity location I also want to be mindful of aspects of the quilt I want to let go off before passing it on to the next generation. Also believing that my child has the agency and wisdom to keep or let go off any aspects of the quilt makes me feel at peace.

Overall, this is a gorgeous story of families, traditions, love and hope. A must read for all humans of all ages. It will make you wonder what invisible quilts have been keeping you going.


Sridevi Kakuturi