Nia Sterling’s review of ‘Caul Baby’


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Hallow is reflecting on life in Harlem.

Nia Sterling, Staff Writer

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins is one of my favorite books of all time. This book takes place in the late nineteenth century, exhibiting a modernist perspective. In dedicating this book to black mothers of the past, present, and future, Jerkins was inspired by the story of Breonna Taylor and the social justice movements across America in response to racial inequality. As imagery was present and constantly implemented, I felt as if I was living in Harlem dealing with the chaos and obstacles  the main characters faced.

A pregnancy sparked a turmoil of events in the lives of the Melancon women. With the fictitious element of the life-saving caul, pregnant mothers all around New York knock on the Melancon women’s door in search of caul to ensure the healthiest and most vital pregnancy. The Melancon women are an African American group, but they tend to serve white women as they are the “wealthiest.” 

Laila, a mother-to-be, sought the help of the Melancon women as she feared another miscarriage. Laila was turned down by the Melancon women for unknown reasons and had another miscarriage. When Laila’s niece, Amara, experiences a teenage pregnancy, she confides in her Godfather. Little does Amara know that her Godfather has a strong relationship with the Melancon women. Thus, when Amara’s baby is born with the rare gift of a caul, Landon allows the Melancon women to adopt Amara’s baby. 

Hallow, Amara’s baby,  became the legacy of the Melancon women as she was prepared to run the caul business as the next successor. Hallow has alternate plans; she is prepared to create a new legacy for the caul business. Hallow wants to diversify the list of people to whom the Melancon women sell caul to. Hallow is aware of  Black mothers struggling with childbirth in Harlem, noting how the mortality rate for African American women is higher. Moreover, Hallow is eager to find her birth mother and learn her true heritage. Hallow is persistent, but stubborn as she tries to achieve her goals. 

As female empowerment month approaches in March, Hallow’s character inspires readers to be unapologetically independent. It is important for young girls to be inspired and motivated by strong female leads in literature. Hallow has been placed into an unimaginable situation, yet continues to persevere and fight for her goals. 

I aspire to accumulate the strength that Hallow has when I grow older. Once Hallow turned 18, she found her voice and herself. I have been goal oriented in becoming the best version of myself, in a similar manner to Hallow. Hallow’s character does not represent perfection, but she showcases the realities of a teenage girl overcoming disparity and embracing adversity. While her character is completely fictional, her character embodies someone I would look up to. 

This book’s magical realism allows readers to see the life of a Harlem family through a third-person perspective. Without a doubt, this book is rated four out of five stars.