Books All Georgians Should Read

Authors of the Month: May

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Erskine Clarke

Erskine Clarke

Decatur Library Auditorium

October 16, 2013, 7:15 p.m.

Erskine Clarke won the prestigious Bancroft Prize given by Columbia University for a work ”of exceptional merit” for his book, Dwellling Place: A Plantation Epic, a compelling narrative history of four generations of a Georgia plantation’s inhabitants, white and black. Clarke returns to the Georgia Center for the Book with his latest epic: By The Rivers Of Water: A Nineteenth-century Atlantic Odyssey. In early November 1834, an aristocratic young couple from Savannah and South Carolina sailed from New York and began a strange seventeen year odyssey in West Africa. Leighton and Jane Wilson sailed along what was for them an exotic coastline, visited cities and villages, and sometimes ventured up great rivers and followed ancient paths. Along the way they encountered not only many diverse landscapes, peoples, and cultures, but also many individuals on their own odysseys. The Wilsons returned to New York because of ill health, but their odyssey was not over. As the Civil War approached, however, they heard the siren voice of their Southern homeland calling from deep within their memories. They sought to resist its seductions, but the call became more insistent and, finally, irresistible. In spite of their years of fighting slavery, they gave themselves to a history and a people committed to maintaining slavery and its deep oppression—both an act of deep love for a place and people, and the desertion of a moral vision. A sweeping transatlantic story of good intentions and bitter consequences, By the Rivers of Water reveals two distant worlds linked by deep faiths.