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Word Count: 923
This short story first articulates the metaphor of quilting to represent the creative legacy that African Americans have inherited from their maternal ancestors The central theme of the story concerns the way in which an individual understands his present life in relation to the traditions of his people and culture Dee tells her mother and Maggie that they do not understand their heritage because they plan to put priceless heirloom quilts to everyday use The story makes clear that Dee is equally confused about the nature of her inheritance both from her immediate family and from the larger black tradition The matter of Dees name provides a good example of this confusion Evidently Dee has chosen her new name Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo to express solidarity with her African ancestors and to reject the oppression implied by the taking on of American names by black slaves To her mother the name Dee is symbolic of family unity after all she can trace it back to the time of the Civil War To the mother these names are significant because they belong to particular beloved individuals Dees confusion about the meaning of her heritage also emerges in her attitude toward the quilts and other household items While she now rejects the names of her immediate ancestors she eagerly values their old handmade goods such as the hand-carved benches made for the table when the family could not afford to buy chairs To Dee artifacts such as the benches or the quilts are strictly aesthetic objects It never occurs to her that they too are symbols of oppression Her family made these things because they could not afford to buy them Her admiration for them now seems to reflect a cultural trend toward valuing handmade objects rather than any sincere interest in her heritage After all when she was offered a quilt before she went away to college she rejected it as old-fashioned out of style Yet a
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