The Bonnet

Seagull Bks. (The Slovak List). Jun. 2024. 224p. tr. from Slovak by Julia Sherwood & Peter Sherwood. ISBN 9781803093529. $25. SOC SCI
This first work of prose by Slovak poet Kucbelová is a subtle feminist study of the stories women share with each other, with a particular focus on the lives of Roma people in Slovakia. The title comes from Kucbelová’s experience of traveling by train and bus to a remote mountain village every month for two years to visit an older Slovak woman, Il’ka, and learn the art of bonnet making. In traditional Slovak society, when a woman married, a bonnet was placed on her head; it symbolized womanhood and was to be worn daily henceforth. Although Kucbelová had not previously met Il’ka, the two women became quite close as they stitched and embroidered bonnets and shared stories, and Il’ka talked about living under communist rule and observing the white Slovak majority’s racism toward the Roma people, even as they lived side by side in remote and rural areas of the country.
VERDICT A beautiful lived history lesson that’s a haunting addition to women’s and gender studies collections.
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