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How to Make an American Quilt Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (April 12, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345388968
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345388964
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,888 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Imaginative in concept and execution, Otto's remarkable first novel is designed with deliberate analogies to quilt-making; like the scraps of fabric that make up a quilt, a series of neat vignettes cumulatively reveal the lives of eight members of a woman's sewing group in a small California town, in portraits that include their families and neighbors. Moreover, each chapter is followed by a short set of "Instructions," which provide lucid explanations of the histories, designs and techniques of various quilt patterns that reflect and symbolize the conditions of the characters' lives. The instructions also carry a subtext: assemble and stitch a quilt as you would build and sustain a human relationship. The women who form Otto's narrative quilt include two sisters whose love for each other survives sexual betrayal; a fearless teenager who loses her determination to lead a free, unfettered life when she traps herself into marriage; a half-black woman who cannot escape her heritage; a wife who forgives her husband's flagrant affairs. The economically phrased, intricately designed narrative touches on the larger issues of war, prejudice and the economic condition of women. Concluding with a description of the Crazy Quilt, "the pattern with the least amount of discipline and the greatest measure of emotion," this affecting novel demonstrates that a writer's self-discipline can engender in a reader a significant emotional response. First serial to McCall's; Literary Guild alternate; major ad/promo.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

"Remarkable...An affirmation of the strength and power of individual lives, and the way they cannot help fitting together."
An extraordinay and moving reading experience, HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT is an exploration of women of yesterday and today, who join together in a uniquely female experience. As they gather year after year, their stories, their wisdom, their lives, form the pattern from which all of us draw warmth and comfort for ourselves.
-- with Maya Angelou, Winona Ryder, and Rip Torn

More About the Author

Whitney Otto is the bestselling author of "How To Make an American Quilt" (also made into a feature film starring Winona Ryder), "Now You See Her," "The Passion Dream Book," "A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity," and her newest novel, "Eight Girls Taking Pictures." "Eight Girls Taking Pictures" was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

Please visit her at her website: www.whitneyotto.com, and on Facebook and tumblr.

Customer Reviews

Too many disjointed concepts.
Mira Templen
Being the type of person I am, (once I see the movie, I read the book)I went out at once and borrowed a copy from the library.
This is the kind of book that will make you a better person for having read it.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Judy on April 17, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read the book only because I loved the movie. I expected the book to contain more storyline and depth, but I was terribly disappointed in finding that the movie in fact was by far, more informative. The book itself was very original: comparing a quilt to love and life. It's blend of fiction and non-fiction was done successfully by Otto. However, one thing that lacked in Otto's book was a main character. It seemed that there were numerous supporting characters, and an attempt to create the main character Finn, and yet Finn had the least lines out of all of them. If more info and depth was written about Finn, then Otto's book would have been as successful as the movie. However, because it lacked in this factor, I was majorly disappointed and gave it only 3 stars when it deserved 5.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on May 6, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
How to Make An American Quilt by Whitney Otto
HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT is a patchwork of lives that make up a quilting group. The ladies all live in Grasse, California, a small town outside of Bakersfield. Whitney Otto wrote this short novel by interspersing chapters dedicated to quilting, in-between chapters dedicated to each of the quilters in the group. What I didn't figure out right away was that each chapter that described the quilting related to the character description of the next quilter. Each person was different and therefore each quilt that could be created by each woman, had different aspects to it.
I have to confess I found the chapters on quilting a bit dull, and it is probably because I am not a quilter. I love to look at quilts; I love to feel them. But reading these chapters on the process of quilting was trying my patience. However, I understood what the author was attempting to do, to compare a quilt to a group of women whose lives were patched together and somehow made them one.
The chapters that talked about the history of each character were very interesting, and I saw how they all were somehow connected to the others. Reading the book was a walk through history, as the women were of varying ages and spanned generations. We got to see Hy and Glady Joe as they are now, in their old age, but also what they were like in their younger years. We saw Anna and her daughter Marianna grow and mature as black women living in a white society. And then there is Finn, who is the narrator of the book. She is the one that is building this patchwork of people, helping to tell the story of women whose lives are somehow intertwined.
I found this book very easy to read, but I didn't find it as interesting as I think it could have been. I feel the author missed her mark, although I give her points for the idea.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Sandra Mitchell on January 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In How to Make an American Quilt you will meet the ladies of the Grasse Quilting Circle. Glady Jo, her sister Hy, and friends Anna, Marriana, Constance, Sophia and Em gather once a week in Glady Jo's home to assemble quilts. Their current project is to assemble Hy's grand-daughter, Finn's, marriage quilt. It is during this process that we get a glimpse into each of these women's love stories and learn what stitches & fabrics their individual marriages are made up of.
I felt slightly disadvantaged reading this novel, after having seen and loved the movie dozens of times. When I realized the movie was based on a novel by Whitney Otto, I couldn't wait to delve into it. Because I love the movie so much, I found it very hard to be objective while reading the book. To it's credit, the movie follows the book very closely. The novel does provide some additional tidbits, but overall, I didn't feel that I learned a whole lot more from the book.
This book was well written and uniquely drawn, tying in the intricacies of quilt making with each woman. What we learn from the story is how different and complex marriages can be in various shapes and forms, but the common string that binds them all is one of love.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By J. A Magill TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
Every individual remains entitled to their own taste, but as Roger Ebert once observed in regard to movies, there are some that if a person didn't like they "just didn't get." Whitney Otto's highly original, engaging, and meticulously fashioned "How to Make an American Quilt" falls firmly in that category. Weaving together her subject as device, metaphor, and over-arching theme, Otto introduces us to her cast of characters all women whose lives are knitted together by their participation in a quilting circle. Some are close, others have no other thread connecting them, but each have a story. Yet Otto uses the quilt metaphor to its full effect, not only through the narrative, but interspersing between these women's stories short sections on the subject of that craft, each of which elucidate some emotional point which she explores in the next woman's story.

Each story stands as distinct, yet serves as an integral part of the greater whole; like patches in a quilt, together their assembled scraps simply took my breath away.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
I saw the movie, How to make an American Quilt, a long time ago and then it was shown on tv. I really liked the movie, even the second time seeing it, so I decided to read the book. Wow, the book was just as good as the movie, actually a lot better! I dissagree with the review that says that the book was geered towards a certain type of people because I definately am not a 60 year old lady who lives in a small town but I still enjoied the book a lot. I loved all of the little lessons I learned from it. I definately reccomend this book to anyone and everyone.
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