October 09, 2011
Indigo by Catherine E. McKinley
I was pretty interested in this book. I thought it would be a history behind the color and show modern uses as well as the historical uses for the Indigo plant. It turned out being a little different than I expected. This book was more of the author's journey while she searched for Indigo and sadly, from my reading of the book, it felt like she was the only one interested in it.
Catherine was adopted as a child and due to her heritage (part African) she has always felt the need to go explore Africa one day. This only intensifies when she starts learning about the Indigo plant and the process used to make dye for fabric. She wants everything to do with Indigo and when she receives a grant, goes to Africa to study and learn about it. She stays with the locals and learns their ways at the same time, helping with the shop or venturing out to meet relatives. She even gets to witness several funerals. Her focus remains on the Indigo though and she learns from several artisans and traders about the plant.
I really like how McKinley wrote about her characters. She wrote the conversations with some of the dialect trying to show through and it did make it more authentic. I felt very close to Eurama even though I had never met the woman before. She seemed like a wonderful person and Catherine is lucky to know her. Everyone else wasn't described near as much but the interactions with people are interesting and a lot about African culture, especially Ghanian is learned through these interactions.
The writing otherwise I'm sad to say disappointed me. While it was interesting to a point I felt that we missed out on a lot of lore and history we could have learned for Indigo. The author sticks mostly to the African uses of it and I loved learning about how they hold cloth special there, but then she proceeds to almost ignore indigo in the rest of the world and instead focus on her travels and experiences while in Africa. For a book named Indigo, it just wasn't what I was expecting and I think I would have received it better had the titling been more true to what the book was about.
Its not a bad read, just don't go into it expecting it to be all about Indigo. It is instead the author's journey for Indigo and her experiences in Africa.