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Edyth Bulbring

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Meaning of Books, Blankets, Emily and Me

100 DAYS OF APRIL-MAY was released by Hot Key Books on 5 September and in honour of this here’s a post about books, blankets and my daughter.

Soon after my daughter, Emily turned fourteen years old, things turned rotten between us. I was complete rubbish for a mother and she was the most conflicted of teens. Between us, we managed to mess up one of the most important relationships two women could have. Emily counted the days until she finished school and left home. When she was gone, I wondered if she would ever want to come home again. I was chewed up with regret.

A couple of months after she started her Fine Art degree at the University of Cape Town – a blissful 1400 miles away from me – she phoned home. And no, she didn’t need money. She had been given an assignment that she thought might interest me. It was a tatty book – a Western if I recall correctly – and she had been tasked to make an art object out if it.

The piece of artwork should depict what books meant to her, her lecturer instructed. For sure this interested me. And Emily and I talked about her project. She told me that books were a sanctuary and a source of comfort. They were a place where she found warmth and security. They were her refuge. A place where she could hide and allow her imagination to rule. Emily remembered that when she was very young she used to make a hideaway den out of sheets and blankets. And crawl away into this safe place and be alone with her imagination and her books.

So she took the tatty Western, cut it up into strips and wove herself a blanket.


Emily gave me her book blanket for Christmas. It is the size of a single bed and I have hung it on my wall. Whenever I look at it, I think of Emily and how much we both love books. And how much I love her.

I think if I was to make an art object out of a book, I would make something like a bridge. A small bridge. I’m not very creative when it comes to this sort of thing. But for me, books are the bridge between me and the people I love.

100 DAYS OF APRIL-MAY takes place in 2010, the year the Soccer World Cup came to South Africa. And when a dog we called Alistair moved in next door and drove us crazy by howling all night. It was also that last rough year before Emily left home. When she was gone, I sat down to write 100 DAYS OF APRIL-MAY. I took many of the things that happened in our home during the previous year and turned them upside down and inside out and wove them into a book. It gave me an opportunity to make some of the things that had happened better.

In a few weeks time Emily will turn 21 years old. For her birthday, my mom, Emily’s grandmother has made her a quilt. My mother is brilliant with her hands, but not so good with words. She says things like: “Stop slouching” or “Take your elbows off the table” when what she really means is: “I love you.” The quilt has been made with thousands of tiny stitches and hundreds of small pieces of material and a couple of years of sewing. The quilt says those three words that my mother never says often enough to Emily. Just like all the words that I have stitched into my books.

You can follow Edyth Bulbring on Twitter @EdythBulbring, and read her 100 DAYS OF APRIL-MAY Q&A here!

This post first appeared on the Hot Key Books blog.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    September 12th, 2013 @18:00 #

    What a stunning gift.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    September 13th, 2013 @01:03 #

    Oh Lordie Edie, you have made me teary. What a wonderful post.


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