Black Water and Tulips, by Sara Mansfield Taber

Black Water & Tulips tells the story of a brave and tortured woman, and a difficult mother-daughter relationship set in the perilous waters of Cold War espionage.

“Chilling moments of darkness and delicious moments of light,” writes Sara Mansfield Taber, “competed for ascendance in my relationship with my mother. Their flipping back and forth would haunt me and yank at my spirits from my birth onward. In my first three decades, the light moments counterbalanced and out-weighed the darker ones. Then, around my thirtieth year, there was a sharp, inexplicable tilt toward the dark and our relationship was rendered torturous. To identify its cause has been a primary preoccupation of my adult life.”

“I read Sara Taber’s Black Water and Tulips breathlessly, in one fell swoop, entranced by the beauty and difficulty of this mother/daughter story. Artfully constructed, ringing with mythic undertones, fiercely honest, and so vividly written the pages felt alive in my hands, this is the most powerful and searching memoir I have read in years. It left me thinking for days about how we become the women we are, and all the ways—positive and negative—our mothers shape us. Profoundly compassionate and deeply moving, this shimmering tapestry of a book is a stunning achievement.”
-Alison Townsend, author of Persephone in America

“As her father takes on CIA espionage assignments in different countries, a shy and sensitive girl struggles to find her own voice and separate from her energetic and erratic mother. Black Water and Tulips is a courageous and exquisitely crafted exploration of a mother-daughter bond that is at once loving and painful—one that gets no easier as the author reaches adulthood and builds a family of her own. The author’s rich descriptions of her family’s foreign service life in Japan, Taiwan, Holland, Borneo and suburban Washington, DC create a compelling backdrop for this intensely personal and delicately nuanced story of coming of age during the Cold War.”

-Sandra Dibble, journalist, San Diego Union-Tribune

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