The Quilt of Belonging: Stitching Together the Stories of a Nation


64 pages
Contains Photos, Index
ISBN 1-897066-49-X
DDC 746.46'0971





Reviewed by Lisa Arsenault

Lisa Arsenault is a high-school English teacher who is involved in
several ministry campaigns to increase literacy.


When the visual artist Esther Bryan visited her father’s homeland of
Slovakia, she was vindicated in what she had always believed: that life
in Canada should be celebrated, and that the quality of life we enjoy is
a direct result of the contributions of people from all over the world.
To honour the contributions of all Canadians she decided to create, with
the help of “an army of volunteers,” a huge quilt consisting of
blocks from every country in the world and from Canada’s Aboriginal

After a brief history of the quilt’s provenance, its statistics (36 m
x 3.5 m), materials (cowrie shells, postage stamps, clock hands), and
techniques (applique, lace, leatherwork, batik, beadwork) the bulk of
the book is devoted to the 263 individual blocks. Approximately 50 are
illustrated in colour; some are allowed an entire page each. A detailed
description of the materials, techniques, and symbolic rationale for
subject matter is provided. Occasionally human-interest stories behind
the making of the block (funny, sad, or poignant, but always meaningful)
are included. Given the space restrictions, not all blocks are
illustrated, but each nation, and many smaller models, are presented at
the end of the book. There are also tips for crating one’s own square.

This account of “the path from separateness to wholeness to
belonging” in visual form is particularly noteworthy for the beauty of
its presentation. The blocks, striking in themselves, are shown to
advantage with complementary backdrops and supplementary colour cutouts.
Those that occupy an entire page (30 cm x 23 cm) are particularly
outstanding. Any beholder would be attracted by these photographs and
intrigued by the concept behind the quilt. Recommended.


Weaver, Janice., “The Quilt of Belonging: Stitching Together the Stories of a Nation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,