Book Review: Mustard Seed (Freedman/Johnson#2) by Laila Ibrahim

This is the second book in this series, and I was eager to get into it as the first book was a blast.

This second book continues to follow the Freedman and Johnson families’ as they navigate through their new lives in Ohio. However, both families are compelled to travel back to Virginia on two separate missions. Mattie, to go back and rescue her niece who after the abolition of slavery still works for and resides on the farm Mattie escaped years ago and Lizbeth, to care for her dying father. As they all make this journey and arrive in Virginia, they quickly realize that although there is freedom for the black people on paper, a lot is still yet to change. This story paints a vivid picture of the realities black families faced after the American civil war and how the abolition of slavery affected both white and black Americans.

This was another great addition to this story, and I enjoyed reading it. It has given me a clearer understanding of why it has taken the black Americans this long to actually walk into freedom and actually feel confident in it. I also love the perspectives the story allows the reader to see and ponder upon. As usual Mattie and Lisbeth continue to show themselves as strong God-fearing women despite all life throws their way and this is what I call courage. There’s also a part of this story that highlights how it is difficult for one to understand another’s struggles unless you actually experience it as shown through Mattie and her daughter Jordan’s interactions. I continue to learn from reading this book that when people express fear or worry over a particular thing or situation I don’t feel the same way about, the least I can do is to empathize with them and not see myself in a more superior light. This book was thought-provoking to say the least.

I highly recommend.

Rating: 5 Stars

Published: November 7, 2017

Pages: 282

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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