The Spirit of Sweetgrass
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Thomas Nelson / 2007 / Paperback
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The Spirit of Sweetgrass

Thomas Nelson / 2007 / Paperback

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Stock No: WW455065


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Product Description

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.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 304
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2007
Dimensions: 8.5 X 5.63 (inches)
ISBN: 1591455065
ISBN-13: 9781591455066

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Publisher's Description

Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins is a 78-year-old sweetgrass basket weaver who sits on the side of Hwy. 17 in the company of her dead husband, Daddy Jim. Inspired by her Auntie Leona, Essie Mae finally discovers her calling in life and weaves powerful "love baskets," praying fervently over them to affect the lives of those who visit her roadside stand. When she's faced with losing her home and her stand and being put in a nursing home, Daddy Jim talks her into coming on up to Heaven to meet sweet Jesus-something she's always wanted to do. Once there, she reunites with Gullahs and African ancestors; but soon, her heavenly peace is disrupted, for she still has work to do. Now Essie Mae, who once felt powerless and invisible, must find the strength within her to keep her South Carolina family from falling apart.

Publisher's Weekly

In an enjoyable debut novel, Seitz offers an interesting first-person narrative about the life (and seemingly, the afterlife) of an elderly Gullah-Creole basket weaver. By the side of Highway 17 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina sits 78-year-old Essie Mae Laveau Jenkins, crafting baskets of sweetgrass and talking to her dead husband Daddy Jim. Relations are strained with her daughter Henrietta, who thinks Essie belongs in a retirement center. If Essie can't pay $10,000 in back taxes to save her home, she may have no choice. More tensions: her grandson EJ wants to marry a white girl, Essie discovers that a handsome man she's trying to find a girl for is gay, and her daughter carries a hidden secret. When Essie hopes she'll die and go to heaven, the book shifts less successfully to the afterlife, where her Gullah-Creole ancestors surround her and she's reunited with Daddy Jim. Together, they team up to return to Earth and battle two spirits conjured up by Henrietta's voodoo that threatens to ruin an attempt to save the sweetgrass basket weaving culture. Although uneven after a strong start, the first-person narrative in heavy dialect is engaging and readers will enjoy the bits of Gullah culture and history salted throughout. Copyright 2007 Publishers Weekly

Author/Artist Review

Author: Nicole Seitz
Located in: Mount Pleasant, SC
Submitted: October 06, 2006

    Tell us a little about yourself.  From my publisher:

NICOLE SEITZ is a South Carolina Lowcountry native and freelance writer/illustrator published in SouthCarolina Magazine, Charleston Magazine, House Calls, The Island Packet and The Bluffton Packet. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism, she also has a bachelor's degree in illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design. Nicole is an exhibiting artist in the Charleston, South Carolina area where she owns a web design firm and lives with her husband and two small children.

FROM ME: When I'm not painting or writing I'm taking care of my two small children. And I'm blessed to live with my best friend who also happens to be my husband. At this stage in life, making art and raising our family is #1 for me. I'm also a sushi-lover (and ethnic foods in general), and I like to relax by reading someone else's hard work--fiction mostly.

    What was your motivation behind this project?  The motivation behind writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass was simply to tell the story of the voice that was coming through loud and clear.

    What do you hope folks will gain from this project?  Writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass has been a life- altering experience for me. Not only did it introduce me to the world of publishing, but it opened my eyes to the struggles of the African- American sweetgrass basket weavers in my community. I hope that readers will be touched by the story of my sweet Essie Mae, that their imaginations may soar while exploring Heaven, and that they'll have fun learning about the little-known but important Gullah/Geechee people.

    Who are your influences, sources of inspiration or favorite authors / artists?  The beauty and people of the Lowcountry inspire me, but most of all, God gave my Essie Mae's voice. He is my greatest inspiration. I enjoy reading fiction mostly. I love writers who make me forget I'm reading at all. Some favorites include Amy Tan, Rebecca T. Godwin, and J.L. Miles.

    Anything else you'd like readers / listeners to know:  The Origin of The Spirit of Sweetgrass: Expecting my second child, Coulter, I was struck with the idea for The Spirit of Sweetgrass while driving home past the quaint roadside stands of Mount Pleasant sweetgrass basket weavers. I recall a sense of urgency to get it all down--I found a scrap of paper and begin writing while driving. (Do not attempt this at home.) After research (including learning to weave at Boone Hall Plantation), the novel began to take shape. A month after beginning The Spirit of Sweetgrass, I went on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. I tried to settle in to what might be a very long couple of months. I found I was unable to write, but I reveled in the stories and loving care of a friend of the family, a Lowcountry basket weaver. Just two weeks later, Coulter was born, small but healthy. The circumstances of his birth left me awed and grateful for the blessings of a second chance at life and a healthy child. I soon found the voice of the weaver, Essie Mae, louder and more persistent than ever. I remember having to wake in the middle of the night to put the story on paper--that of Heaven and family ties.

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