Foreword by Mary Alice Monroe
Charleston is rich in sense of place. We need only look to her expansive history to appreciate the role she played in the foundation of our great nation. From the 17th and 18th centuries, our port has welcomed countless immigrants–some willing, others not. It is estimated that 60 to 80% of African-American citizens can trace at least one ancestor back to Charleston, South Carolina. In the wisdom of retrospect we witness how two social strata–the great cotton and rice plantations and the African slaves– came together over the course of time to form many of the Lowcountry’s most treasured cultural foods and traditions. We celebrate the unique Gullah-Geechee culture that has survived in the barrier islands. And in each era, the South’s historic crown jewel–Charleston has glittered as a beacon of sophistication, culture and tradition for generations.
The landscape is our common ground. From the pounding surf and the swift tidal currents to the majestic colonial lakes and verdant countryside. From the scents of freshly tilled soil, jasmine and pluff mud, to the sight of countless fireflies lighting up the dirt roads, moss dripping like ragged lace from the drooping boughs of ancient oaks, elegant verandas, rocking chairs on front porches, wood cabins deep in the forests and cobblestone streets in the city, to the sounds of swelling cicadas on summer nights, the piercing cries of ospreys, hawks and eagles and the omnipresent high hum of mosquitoes–these are hallmarks of our southern home.
Yet as dramatic and influential as these broad strokes of Charleston’s landscape may be to help us define that elusive sense of place, it is in the personal stories that we explore the poignant, heartwarming experiences that defines life in the Holy City. The words of the locals sweep away the fairytale and reveal the true, every day human experience.
In this collection of essays, some of Charleston’s most beloved citizens share what it means to live in this land carved of marsh and sea. To work here, raise a family here, grow old here. Some authors may claim ties to a historic family with a long pedigree. Others are newcomers, those “from off” who have traveled to our states and now call them home. These individual stories of inspiration, motivation, joy and sorrow, discovery and loss, failure and triumph collectively are our Songs of the South–our Charleston.
2015 was a year of challenges for Charleston. As I write, we are battling the unprecedented, historic rainfall that has flooded the state and will leave many of our citizens homeless. In her long history Charleston has weathered war, hunger, disease, economic depression, hurricanes and floods. Our city has triumphed over adversity time and again. I know that in aftermath of this flooding, too, neighbor will help neighbor. Only a few months earlier we endured the brutal slaying of innocents at “Mother Emanuel,” the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the Southern United States. Perhaps Charleston’s shining moment came when she revealed to the world a lesson in forgiveness and community bonds and moving forward undivided.
Mary Alice Monroe is the New York Times Bestselling Author of The Beach House Trilogy and The Lowcountry Summer Trilogy with her lastest book, A Lowocuntry Wedding out now.