Book Review: Yellow Crocus (Freedman/Johnson #1) by Laila Ibrahim

I am a huge fan of historical fiction. However, most of my reading in this genre have been focused on European and Asian history. This year, I have decided to spread my wings a bit farther towards the Americas and this book was a start for me. This is also my first book by the author, and I went into reading it not knowing what to expect apart from what I had gathered from a few reviews I read about the book.

‘Yellow Crocus‘ follows Mattie, a slave girl separated from her own baby to nurse the newborn child (Lisbeth) of her owners in Virginia, USA. Mattie and Lisbeth form a peculiar bond as Lisbeth grows older which seems absurd to most people especially Lisbeth’s family. This is also at the time when slaves were given the freedom to live as free and independent people in some states in the United States of America and Mattie’s husband is determined to take the brave step to escape with his family from slavery to Ohio. Mattie’s journey through these times and how this affects Lisbeth constitute the main themes in this story. The story also paints a vivid picture of the daily lives of African slaves and their masters in those times.

This book was such an unexpected treat. I loved everything about the story. It was captivating, informative and relatable in so many ways. Being able to see both Mattie’s and Lisbeth’s perspectives was really helpful to paint a complete picture of the situation in those times. History is really beautiful and ugly at the same time because it brings clarity to many things that we see and experience today and it unfortunately also shows that some things haven’t really changed much since then. I am glad that this is a series of three books, and I am currently reading the second book (Mustard Seed). Watch out for my review soon.

I highly recommend to all historical fiction lovers.

Rating: 5 Stars

Published: December 17, 2010

Pages: 253

Genre: Historical Fiction

The Author:

Laila Ibrahim grew up in Whittier, California on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, and moved to Oakland, California to attend Mills College where she studied Psychology and Child Development. After getting a Master’s Degree in Human Development, she realized she wanted to do more hands on work with children, and opened up her own preschool: Woolsey Children’s School. Her education coupled with her experience as a teacher and parent provide ample fodder for her writing – especially her interest in Attachment Theory and multiculturalism.

She identifies as a devout Unitarian Universalist – which is sort of like being a radical moderate – and worked as the Director of Children and Family Ministries at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland for five years.  She lives in a small co-housing community in Berkeley with her wife, Rinda, a public school administrator. She the proud mother of wonderful young adult daughters.

Laila self-published Yellow Crocus in 2011 after agents repeatedly told her that no one would want to read a story about the love between an enslaved black woman and her privileged white charge. Over the years the readers have proven them wrong.  She became a full-time writer in 2015.

Living Right, her second novel,  is set in 2004, but with a similar theme: loving across difference.  It goes beyond the headline to reveal the life and death stakes when a devoted mother struggles to reconcile her evangelical Christian beliefs with her son’s sexual orientation. 

Mustard Seed continues with the lives of the Freedman and Johnson families after the Civil War.

Paper Wife tells the story of Mei Ling, a young woman forced by social upheaval to marry a stranger and immigrate from Southern China through Angel Island to San Francisco in 1923. 

Golden Poppies continues the story of Mattie and Lisbeth’s families in the 1890’s.

Scarlet Carnation continues with Mattie and Lisbeth’s granddaughters as the point of view characters in Oakland California between 1911 and 1915.

Laila  loves calling, Zooming or FaceTiming into bookclubs and public speaking.  She can be contacted at

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