Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir

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9780029105504: Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir

Mamie Garvin Fields was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1888. Though black, her family was gifted and she grew up not among house servants or sharecroppers but among artisans and professionals.

In LEMON SWAMP, she looks back on this all-but-forgotten community of friends and family, and on the wider social landscape of the segregationist South of her youth.

"LEMON SWAMP is wonderful. I think anyone interested in Southern history, black history, Charleston, or the struggles of women in society will find it thoroughly engaging." --Ernest Hollings, U.S. Senator

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Karen Fields, professor of sociology at Brandeis University, spent a year taping her grandmother's stories - sipping okra soup, laughing over her kitchen table, and listening. The result is Lemon Swamp, Mamie Garvin Fields' memories of her childhood and her life as an educated black woman in early twentieth-century Charleston, South Carolina. Born in 1888, Mamie Fields was part of an extended family and a large neighborhood. Keeping track of all the names and places makes the early chapters hard work, but there's a reason for the details, and almost every one has a story. Mamie Fields tells of Charleston parks where blacks were not allowed to sit on the benches, and describes jubilant picnics in the country, filled with food, families, dancing, and hide-and-go-seek. There is her grandfather's plantation, with its Lemon Swamp, where her grandmother was "lost" during Sherman's march. And there are the schools on the Sea Islands - "a place behind God's back" - where Mamie Fields taught. In Lemon Swamp, Mamie Fields remembers what blacks were not allowed to do in the South and won't let anybody forget what they accomplished. When other teachers told her "'Don't bother with the white people to get necessities for your school'...[her] attitude was 'He's a man and he speaks English. I will ask him.' " She did ask and she did accomplish - often without asking. She's a remarkable woman, and together she and her granddaughter bring a remarkable history to life. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Erica Bauermeister

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