The Spirit of SweetgrassThe Spirit of Sweetgrass
Nicole Seitz
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Interview, Excerpt

There is already a buzz about brand new author Nicole A. Seitz. A South Carolina Lowcountry native, humor and authenticity abound in her writing. Join Essie Mae as she sits beside the highway weaving and selling sweetgrass baskets and talking to her long-dead husband in his pink plastic chair. Her down-home charm and unique take on life will have you laughing and crying through her exploits at prayer-filled matchmaking, saving her home from commercial development, and managing an uppity daughter who is determined to run what remains of Essie Mae's life.


 The Spirit of Sweetgrass Discussion Questions: by Nicole Seitz


1.   Does Daddy Jim truly sit with Essie Mae and speak with her? What does EJ believe? How about Henrietta? Why do you think Daddy Jim visits Essie Mae at her roadside stand? Why doesn’t he come to the house on Rifle Range Road? If Daddy Jim truly loves Essie Mae, why do you think he won’t go to Sunnydale Farms?


2.    Essie Mae feels she’s found her calling in life. What is her calling? Have you found your calling in life? If so, how did you realize it? If not, what may be standing in your way? Do you believe everyone has a calling?


3.    Essie Mae is 78-years-old. Is she part of your generation, your mother’s, or your grandmother’s? What characteristics does she share with women of her generation?


4.   Both Jeffrey Lowes and Jackson Hemmingway were cared for as children by Essie Mae. What do you think about nanny-child relationships? What does it say to you that a white family chooses a nanny who is African-American?


5.   What do you think Essie Mae is most afraid of? How does she handle that fear? What do you think Henrietta is most afraid of? How does she handle her fears? Have you ever considered what you’re most afraid of? How might your fears impact your actions and your loved ones?


6.   How do you think Essie Mae feels when she learns Jeffrey is gay? Are her beliefs conservative or liberal? Upon learning his sexual orientation, do Essie Mae’s feelings toward Jeffrey change? Is it possible to love someone unconditionally yet not accept everything about him or her?


7.    When Essie Mae is in heaven she says, “It’s a wonder we understand each other a’tall down on Earth what with us only seeing little snippets of folks every now and again.” Does Essie Mae ever understand her daughter, Henrietta? Does Henrietta ever understand her mother? In any relationship, how important is it that we understand each other? What are some ways to foster better understanding?


8.   In what ways is The Spirit of Sweetgrass a love story?



9.    In this book, Essie Mae has a strong spiritual connection to places: Mount Pleasant, the lime-green house, her roadside stand, Africa, heaven. Do you have a spiritual connection to a place? Explain.


10.    The themes of home and homeland are strong in The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Why is heritage and paying homage to homeland important? What is Essie Mae’s true homeland? What is yours?


11.    The themes of life and death are threaded throughout this book. What are some instances of these events? How do these events affect the characters in the book? Essie Mae? Jeffrey? Henrietta?


12.    Essie Mae and her band of heavenly spirits are involved in a spiritual battle at the Sweetgrass Soiree. What are they battling over? Do you believe that spiritual battles between good and evil go on in our daily lives?


13.    After the Soiree EJ thinks his mother, Henrietta, is a racist. Do you believe she is? If so, what is at the root of her prejudice? If issues of the past are fully dealt with, do you believe racial prejudice can be overcome?


14.    The notion of “Power” or being “powerful” fuels this story. What is Power, where does it come from, and who has it? Does Essie Mae have power in the beginning of the book? In the end? Is there power in Essie Mae’s “love baskets”?


15.    Heaven is an important setting in this book. Describe what you imagine heaven is like. What do you hope it will be like? Do you have any fears about heaven? Do you believe there’s a connection between heaven and Earth?


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