Thursday, May 5, 2022

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Scarlet Carnation, by Laila Ibrahim {ends 5/13}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley


June 1915

The exhibition was as grand as the accounts in the newspaper reported. Blocks and blocks of the city of San Francisco were transformed into a walled fortress along the waterfront. Dome-topped buildings in art deco designs anchored the four corners. The city was declaring to the entire world: we are recovered from the 1906 earthquake, ready to be an important city of the future. 

The two couples strolled through the Joy Zone, a midway lined with games, rides, and attractions. It spread blocks and blocks from Fillmore Street to Van Ness Avenue, making what had been a familiar neighborhood entirely unrecognizable. Each booth’s distinct and dramatic fa├žade broadcast the attraction in order to draw customers. 

“Oh dear!” May exclaimed as she tapped John’s arm and pointed.

Ahead was a grotesque caricature of an African man. His chin rested on his hands and a large ring passed through his nose. The words African Dip filled in the space between his arms. It was one of those horrid dunk tanks that were supposedly an improvement over the African Dodger game. But May disapproved of anything that encouraged White men to hurl abuse at Colored men. Dropping a man in a tank of water was scarcely better than throwing baseballs at his head.

She teared up. “I believed San Francisco was better than stooping to such degradation for profit.”

This was the story of two distant relations living in the same city, but still worlds apart based in part on the color of their skin.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Scarlet Carnation, by Laila Ibrahim {ends 5/13}
1915. May and Naomi are extended family, their grandmothers’ lives inseparably entwined on a Virginia plantation in the volatile time leading up to the Civil War. For both women, the twentieth century promises social transformation and equal opportunity.

May, a young white woman, is on the brink of achieving the independent life she’s dreamed of since childhood. Naomi, a nurse, mother, and leader of the NAACP, has fulfilled her own dearest desire: buying a home for her family. But they both are about to learn that dreams can be destroyed in an instant. May’s future is upended, and she is forced to rely once again on her mother. Meanwhile, the white-majority neighborhood into which Naomi has moved is organizing against her while her sons are away fighting for their country.

In the tumult of a changing nation, these two women—whose grandmothers survived the Civil War—support each other’s quest for liberation and dignity. Both find the strength to confront injustice and the faith to thrive on their chosen paths.

May and Naomi are distant cousins, but still see each other a few times a year. They’re in different stages of their life, have different goals and plans for their life, and look quite different: Naomi is black, while May is white. But this has never given them any confusion about the fact that they’re family.

With that said, the story is told in separate turns of each woman’s story. The book starts with May anxiously waiting for her boyfriend to propose once he is gainfully employed as he finishes college. Naomi would love to move her family into a better home, with modern amenities and more room for them all. Neither of their plans go quite as expected. 

This great telling of two parallel stories in and around San Francisco in the early 1900s shows the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how a woman can respond and hopefully try to make it better for everyone. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars and would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction and women’s stories. 

{click here to purchase - currently free for Kindle Unlimited}

Becki Bayley’s greatest wish for her life is for her children to grow into happy, healthy, productive adults. She has no idea what will happen once that goal is met. Check out what else she’s reading and doing with her time at


TWO of my lucky readers will win a copy of Scarlet Carnation!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Thursday, May 12th, at 11:59pm ET, and winner will be contacted via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Scarlet Carnation, by Laila Ibrahim


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