Myrtle's Closet


Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
202 Pages
Reviewed on 04/13/2021
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Author Biography

Kareem Wade is the co-author of "Myrtle's Closet." Kareem had a vision of writing a book about a lesbian slave back in 1995. He became curious about this topic at Butte College in his eastern religion course. The thought just came to him as the class was discussing women and religion. Kareem obtained his master's degrees from Grand Canyon University in Addiction Counseling and Southern Oregon University in master's in management. Mandy Wade is the co-author of Myrtle's Closet. Mandy played the most significant role in research and development of the characters. Mandy writing skills was imbedded in her by her late father who was an English teacher. Mandy enjoys writing poetry and for the past few years got into book writing. Writing gives her an outlet for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Education through Southern Oregon University.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Myrtle's Closet by authors Kareem Wade and Mandy Wade is a gripping tale of love and sacrifice set against the backdrop of the American Civil War. It's the year 1910. While rummaging through the artifacts of her recently deceased mother Myrtle Polk, Sarah Polk comes across a book written by her mother chronicling her life story. Myrtle's tale takes Sarah back through the pages of history, where Myrtle recounts being sold as a slave at the age of seven alongside her family to Jesse Polk. After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of her mother during the slave auction, Myrtle grows up harboring an inherent resentment towards her masters. Isabel Polk, daughter of Jesse, becomes her only ray of sunshine, and the duo soon develops a burgeoning friendship that blossoms into a relationship of deep love.

Myrtle's Closet tells a harrowing tale of a woman living life as a slave during pre-Civil War America and follows her as she eventually obtains her freedom with help the help of her lover. Authors Kareem and Mandy Wade masterfully capture the stigma and distrust associated with LGBTQ relationships in the 19th century and craft a moving love story depicting a black slave and her mistress. The plot moves at a brisk pace, and the characters feel vivid and fleshed out. Myrtle and Isabel's relationship drives the narrative, and it felt riveting to read. The authors don't shy away from showcasing the darker aspects of humanity, as I thought a couple of scenes felt brutally real. I found myself glued to the pages of Myrtle's Closet. Highly recommended.

Grant Leishman

Myrtle’s Closet by Kareem Wade and Mandy Wade takes us on a historical journey back to the time before the Civil War, in the slave-owning South. When Myrtle Polk’s daughter is burying her mother and cleaning out her house, she discovers Myrtle’s diary, which records the extraordinary life of her mother as a house-slave on a Southern plantation and she makes some discoveries about her mother that forever will change her view of her amazing mother and the unusual life that she had led. Myrtle and her family were purchased by Jesse Polk, a wealthy, slave-owning, plantation owner and so began a journey that would see Myrtle and her family face terrible hardship and cruelty before finally achieving the freedom and safety she so earnestly desired. As a house-slave, the young Myrtle becomes a helper, companion, and secret best friend to the Polks' daughter Isabel, a relationship that will mature and deepen as the years pass. This coming-of-age novel is a bittersweet reminder of the past, the injustices of slavery, and the indomitable grit and determination of two extraordinary young women.

Myrtle’s Closet is a stunning indictment of man’s inhumanity to man, where one race can claim superiority over another and treat one group of people as nothing more than property. Kareem Wade and Mandy Wade have painted a vivid picture of the pre-Civil War South and the attitude of the plantation owners to their slaves. What I particularly loved about this narrative was the authors’ unwillingness to candy-coat the reality of the harsh and violent treatment of slaves. Even those plantation masters who were painted as “good” and caring with respect to their slaves were capable of “turning on a sixpence” and subjecting them to instant and deadly justice, at the slightest insult. The beautiful relationship between Myrtle and Isabel was the undoubted highlight of the narrative and gave what could have easily been a brutal and horrific tale a deeper and sweeter underlying arc. I was impressed by the depth of language and feeling the authors were able to imbue into these two principal protagonists. The girls’ unwavering devotion to each other was beautiful, meaningful, and ultimately life-affirming. In these troubled times, it behooves us to look back and see where we have come from as a nation and what the human spirit is capable of achieving given love and trust; where color is not a barrier to a partnership but rather adds immensely to the underlying human condition. This book satisfies that need magnificently and I can highly recommend this relatively short but highly-charged and emotional drama.

Jennifer Ibiam

Myrtle had just been buried and her daughter, Sarah, was cleaning up her room. On opening the wardrobe, she found a secret compartment that contained a black diary. Sarah settled in to read this book, which transported her back to the 1850s. Through this journey in time, she learned about her mother’s family, life as a slave, plus the secrets and scandals in between. Myrtle exposed the very foundation of Sarah’s existence, nullifying everything she thought to be true about herself. With blow after emotional blow, Sarah endured the exposé. What will she do after discovering that her entire life was a lie? How will she handle the gory circumstances of her birth? Will she ever find her roots? Myrtle’s Closet, a historical novel by Kareem Wade and Mandy Wade, has all the details.

Myrtle’s Closet by Kareem Wade and Mandy Wade is a heartbreaking yet thought-provoking novel that showed me life as it was for people of color in the 1850s. It was terrible, as I could never imagine a person owning another human in the name of slavery. This book will tug at the heartstrings of even the most emotionally resilient, owing to the sufferings of Earl and his family. When Myrtle lived her truth, I hurt for Emma and Paul because they were all they had. This book explores grief, love, loss, courage, inhumanity, and resilience. Kareem and Mandy did an outstanding job with the plot and development. They poured emotions into every scene, helping me connect strongly with the characters. Myrtle’s Closet is indeed a beautiful book and will be a big-screen hit.

Lesley Jones

In 1910, shortly after the funeral of her mother Myrtle Polk, Sarah discovers a book containing details of her life as a slave in the 1850s. Myrtle was born into slavery in August 1844, in South Carolina. At first, her parents and elder sister Emma belonged to Robert Foster but when his gambling addiction got out of control, Myrtle and her family were sold at auction to the uncaring Jesse Polk. Myrtle soon becomes friends with Polk's daughter, Isabel. Myrtle's Closet by Kareem Wade and Mandy Wade charts the story of an unwavering friendship through the years as a slaveowner's daughter and a slave fight to keep their friendship secret. As both girls are witness to the deadly punishments for slaves disrespecting their owners or, worse still, attempting to escape, they must endure the brutal reality of slavery. Their friendship remains through the years as both girls come of age and have to face forced marriages. As the Confederates and the Union fight to end slavery, Myrtle and Isabel face an unthinkable future if they remain in Louisana. Their only chance of survival is to escape to the North. But will they avoid detection by the slavery hunters and will Myrtle ever realize the dream of living as a free woman?

I cannot express how deeply Myrtle's Closet has touched me. The contents are so well-written, brutally vivid, and sometimes it was unbearable to imagine the lives of Myrtle and her family. There are some scenes that will remain with me for a long time, such as the events in the slave auction and the treatment of Myrtle's mother. The attitude of the slave owners towards their victims was callous, inhumane, and unbelievable at times. This shocking disregard of human life was particularly apparent by Phyllis Polk's reaction to the execution of one of her slaves. Isabel and Myrtle's friendship was absolutely heartwarming. They were true soulmates and some of the scenes they shared together were very emotional but really humourous too as they played pranks on other members of the Polk household. There were chilling moments of tension as Myrtle and Isabel planned and executed their escape. The obstacles they faced on their journey to freedom were heart-stopping and brilliantly written. There were stark contrasts of behavior excellently portrayed by the amazing cast of characters. On one hand, there was Reverend Whitman who fought to protect the young girls in their escape attempt, and on the other, there was the vile character in the slave auction who reveled in the pain of others. I also thought the mention of Myrtle's grandfather and how he was born free but sold into slavery when he was falsely accused of theft, highlights the corruption of the legal system during that era. I loved the powerful symbolism of the tea kettle too. The letter from Isabel to Myrtle at the end of the story will bring tears to your eyes. This is a book that will always be remembered and needs to be shared in the hope that important lessons are learned and never to be repeated.

Beth bridge

It's an amazing book. I've read it twice now!