Synopses & Reviews
For almost five millennia, in every culture and every major religion, indigo-a blue pigment obtained from the small green leaf of a parasitic shrub through a complex process that even scientists still regard as mysterious-has been one of the world's most valued dyes.
Indigo is the story of this precious dye and its ancient heritage: its relationship to slavery as the "hidden half" of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, its profound spiritual (African, Islamic, Christian, Amish) and sartorial significance that is little recognized but no less alive today (blue jeans, anyone?). It is an untold story, existing in footnotes and brief mentions in popular and scholarly records, brimming with rich, electrifying tales of those who shaped the course of 20th century colonial history and a world economy, fascinating people long forgotten who here are brought thrillingly alive. But Indigo is also the story of a personal quest: McKinley is the descendant of a clan of Scots who wore indigo tartan as their virile armor; the kin of several generations of Jewish "rag traders"; her maternal grandfather owned a textile factory in Lynn, Massachusetts; and she's a paternal granddaughter of African slaves-her ancestors were traded along the same Saharan routes as indigo, where a length of blue cotton could purchase human life. McKinley's journey in search of beauty and her own history began with a Fulbright fellowship to research indigo, and ultimately leads her to a new and satisfying path, to finally "taste life."
"Gorgeously recounts McKinleys journey to West Africas teeming markets and churning factories, through funerals and uprisings, to find ‘the bluest of the blues"—Los Angeles Times
"[McKinleys] discoveries resonate, and her unique experiences provide a vivid snapshot of the cultures she encountered in Africa."—Washington Post
"An eye-opening account of the controversial role this gorgeous, coveted pigment has played through the millennia."—Elle
Brimming with rich, electrifying tales of the precious dye and its ancient heritage, Indigo is also the story of a personal quest: Catherine McKinley is the descendant of a clan of Scots who wore indigo tartan; Jewish "rag traders"; a Massachusetts textile factory owner; and African slaves—her ancestors were traded along the same Saharan routes as indigo, where a length of blue cotton could purchase human life. McKinleys journey in search of beauty and her own history leads her to the West African women who dye, trade, and wear indigo—women who unwittingly teach her that buried deep in the folds of their cloths is all of destiny and the human story.
About the Author
Catherine E. McKinley is the author of The Book of Sarahs. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she has taught creative nonfiction, and a former Fulbright Scholar in Ghana, West Africa. She lives in New York City.