The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston

The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston

The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston

The Cigar Factory: A Novel of Charleston

Synopsis

"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 herniece 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. The Cigar Factory includes a foreword by New York Times best-selling author and Story River Books editor at large Pat Conroy.

Excerpt

I first visited Charleston as a fifteen-year-old boy under the tutelage of the magnificent English teacher Gene Norris, and ever since then the city has gripped my imagination with a glittering, magical fascination. When I came there in 1961, a full century after the firing on Fort Sumter, Charleston still seemed haunted by its own stunned heart, yet it was generous with its luminous beauty. It has played a large part in every novel I’ve written, and I’ve always thought that if I could explain the city to myself, then I could tell the story of the whole South as I’ve watched it play out during my own time on earth. But Charleston remains an insolvable mystery to me, an astonishment of what is felt but not often seen, a suffering paradise with an often greater gift for self-delusion than for self-examination.

I’ve long considered my fixation on Charleston as one of the most pleasurable forms that addiction can take. S history, its mansions, its churches, its secret gardens, its cuisines, and its culture, and I’ve tried to read every book by the many novelists who have grappled with the myriad charms, complexities, and contradictions that lie beneath its spire-proud, bell-tolling landscape. By now I know the menu of the three o’clock dinners and the annual gathering of its golden debutantes and the strict customs of its aristocracy, but I knew much less about the lower classes, white and black, that form the largest part of Charleston society. Then I read The Cigar Factory by the gifted writer Michele Moore, who tells the story of two working-class families and brings to life a dynamic vision of Charleston from their street-level perspectives, one that breaks new ground on every page.

The Cigar Factory is a large-hearted novel with a cast of characters wholly original in the vast, tempestuous literature of Charleston. It is a courageous book that takes chances with language that I wouldn’t think of taking; but I will always be grateful that Michele Moore took as her ambitious objective to tell a story in which the truth of language and the truth of lives hold equal sway. the dilemma of how best to cast southern speech onto a page has bruised the souls of a hundred novelists who have tried in earnest to set . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.