"The sun leaned for down bringing shade to the waterfront," begins Michele Moore's entrancing debut novel, harkening back to an era when the legendary fishermen of Charleston's Mosquito Fleet rowed miles offshore for their daily catch.
With evocative dialect and remarkable prose, The Cigar Factory tells the story of two entwined families, both devout Catholics - the white McGonegals and the African American Ravenels - in the storied port city of Charleston, South Carolina, during the World Wars. Moore's novel follows the parallel lives of family matriarchs working on segregated floors of the massive Charleston cigar factory, where white and black workers remain divided and misinformed about the duties and treatment received by each other.
Cassie McGonegal and her niece, Brigid, work upstairs in the factory rolling cigars by hand. Meliah Amey Ravenel works in the basement, where she stems the tobacco. While both white and black workers suffer in the harsh working conditions of the factory and both endure the sexual harassment of the foremen, segregation keeps them from recognizing their common plight until the Tobacco Workers Strike of 1945. Through the experience of a brutal picket line, the two women come to realize how much they stand to gain by joining forces, creating a powerful moment in labor history that gives rise to the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome".
Moore's extensive historical research included interviews with her own family members who worked at the cigar factory, adding a layer of nuance and authenticity to her empowering story of families and friendships forged through struggle, loss, and redemption.
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A Tale of Two Charlestons
- Susie "I'm Audible's first Editor-at-Large, the host of In Bed with Susie Bright -- and a longtime author, editor, journo, and bookworm. I listen to audio when I'm cooking, playing cards, knitting, going to bed, waking up, driving, and putting other people's kids to bed! My favorite audiobooks, ever, are: "True Grit" and "The Dog of the South.""
EXCELLENT both in terms of history and story
Among the best. As a frequent visitor to Charleston, with family members who live there, this book was accurate historically and geographically, compelling in its story line and outstanding in the performance
Both Meliah Amey and Cassie were compelling. But one of my husband's relatives, Judge Waring, is my favorite character
The sounds of old Charleston: I was unaware that gullah was as widely spoken as it was in the early 1900s. Robin thoroughly transported me back in time. It was excellent
The hair stood up on the back of my neck for most of the story...it was that well performed and that believable
I highly recommend this book to anyone
- Rebecca L. White