The Loom tells a moving story of faith and freedom based on a true, mostly forgotten element of American history.
This week’s blog was written by senior editor Beth Adams, who recently worked on a book we think you’ll enjoy.
One of my favorite books I’ve edited in the past few years is The Loom, by Shella Gillus. The story takes place on a Maryland plantation before the Civil War, and it centers on a light-skinned slave named Lydia (named after the biblical weaver), who discovers she can pass for white and escapes slavery to get what she’s always wanted more than anything—freedom. The story is about what she gives up in the process, including the community in the loom room.
I’d never heard of a loom room, but they existed on many Southern plantations (see pictures of an actual loom room at ShellaGillus.com). They were rooms or small cabins tucked away out of sight where slaves wove cloth for their owners’ families. Slaves were sent to work in the loom room when they were no longer good for more strenuous work, so the rooms generally were filled with elderly women. In the novel, these women share with Lydia both wisdom and inspiration. I was really drawn to how the novel is woven around this true, mostly forgotten element of American history.
The Loom is a beautiful, moving story, but it is also full of biblical symbolism, which I just love. Shella, herself a woman of deep faith, has created characters who mirror biblical ones, and the abiding faith of these characters gives them hope for the future—if not in this life, then in the next.
But what is most inspiring about this book is the way the author takes a story about one of the ugliest elements of American history and creates a tale that is redemptive and beautiful.
I was delighted—but not surprised—when last week The Loom was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. The award recognizes outstanding works of art that focus on African-American culture, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for Shella. I hope the nomination draws many people to the book and that they, too, get to see what a beautiful story this is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work on books like this.