Monday, July 21, 2014

Kedzie: Saint Helena Island Slave

Today's special guest is Bonnie Stanard writes poetry, short stories, and, more recently, historical fiction. Her three novels began as one manuscript based loosely on slave narratives collected 1937-38 by the Federal Writers Project and antebellum diaries.

Stanard’s work has been published in journals such as The MacGuffin, Slipstream, Harpur Palate, and Kestrel. In the 80s while she lived in Brussels, Belgium she edited a magazine for English speakers. On returning to the States, she assisted/edited periodicals in Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina. She lives in Columbia. Her website: Her blog:
Awards Won:
Third Place; 2013 Savannah Authors Anthology Contest
Honorable Mention; 2011 USC Sumter’s Medical Humanities Writing Event
Second Place; 2009 Carrie McCray Literary Award
Honorable Mention; 2005 Carrie McCray Literary Award
Finalist; 2008 Del Sol Press Poetry Book Contest
Winner; 2008 River Poets Journal Short Poem Contest
Winner; 2008 Ecolit Contest, Knock magazine
Pushcart Prize nomination 2007
Finalist; 2008 Marsh Hawk Book Contest


Kedzie, Saint Helena Island Slave takes place in 1857 on an island plantation in South Carolina. The history of slavery impacts many Southern stories, and the “facts” are still contentious. If you’re black you’re haunted by Uncle Tom and the ubiquitous “Mammy.” If you’re white, you’re confused, if not embarrassed, that your ancestors fought to preserve a culture of cruelty, ignorance, and white male supremacy.

Wonderful and tragic stories told by former slaves were collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in 1937 and preserved as narratives. These former slaves spoke of how they and their parents struggled to keep their humanity. Many of them were courageous and clever. In large measure, they inspired the writing of Kedzie.

How can a Southern white woman write empathetically and authoritatively of the plight of a young slave girl and her master’s abuse in the years immediately preceding the Civil War?

Stanard’s interest in the conditions and fate of South Carolina slaves grew out of her family’s history of working the land in the early 1900’s when descendants of slaves were still trying to make their way as free men and women. Thoroughly researched, Kedzie, while fiction, is historically based and tells the story of what could have been any number of young slaves girls in the years leading up to the war. 

Kedzie, Saint Helen Island Slave is one of a trilogy of antebellum novels written by Stanard.

Kirkus Reviews says of Kedzie, “Stanard has the remarkable ability to immerse the reader in the unstable times of the antebellum South. The frantic pace of the story gives a palpable sense of urgency to Kedzie's predicament, all while speeding toward its eventual resolution ... A stellar, heart-wrenching chronicle of human bondage.”


“Your pretty dresses won’t keep a cat warm. Believe me, Kedzie, when your lips turn blue and you’re like a shivering owl, you won’t worry about cutting a figure. You’ll be glad you got a linsey-woolsey dress.”
“I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of them,” she said.
“Where did you put your dress?”
“I threw it away,” said Kedzie.
“Throwed it away? What you talking about?”
“I threw it away, Granny!”
Kedzie stalked out of the cabin. Her blue dress had faded to gray and the bodice gripped her waist so tight she couldn’t button all the buttons, but it bespoke what she wanted to be.

Kedzie wondered if religion could make a difference. Maybe God could help her. She intercepted Iverson on the street one day and said, “I want to ask about something.”
Iverson paused and waited.
“If I want to get religion, what do I have to do?”
“You got to seek the Lord,” said Iverson.
“How do I seek?”
“Some people call it going to the wilderness, but you can go anywheres away from folks—in an old field or piney woods or by the creek.”
“While I’m by myself, what do I do?”
“You pray, child! Pray to God and seek him with all your heart.”

Kedzie asked Granny how she’d known when she got religion.
“I musta been twelve years old when I started seeking the Lord. I heard people what crossed over the river say different things. ‘God done struck me down,’ or ‘I been blinded.’ My brother said he saw fire in the top of a oak tree. God talks different ways to people.”
“What did you see?”
“I did most of my seeking down by Station Creek. On the night I come through, I was so tired and almost asleep when I seen a white man standing out in the middle of the creek. I tried to look at his face, but his eyes was so powerful I couldn’t look. He come up to the bank and held his hand out to me. When I reached up and taken it, I felt something like a warm river run into my arm. He told me he was my Father and I was his child. He said for me to tell the preacher to baptize me.”
Looking for a place to seek the Lord, Kedzie disallowed the best live oak, which grew by the sick house, for too many people happened by. She wandered in the pasture, but the cows and beefs watched her and she felt spiritual interference. The musty nature of the hay loft irritated her nose. She wandered in the woods, came upon the brush arbor, sat on one of the stumps, and began her journey to cross Jordan.


books are available at various sites on the internet, e.g., and