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The Cigar Factory

A Novel of Charleston

Michele Moore

Published: Aug 24 2016




Published: Feb 9 2016

OA Ebook
Published: Feb 9 2016


The inclusion of this book in the Open Carolina collection is made possible by the generous funding of

An empowering story of families and friendships forged through struggle, loss, and redemption

"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.

Available in audiobook from Audible

Michele Moore has served as a fellow in the English Department at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia. She was a 2006 finalist for the Bellwether Prize for Literature. Her creative nonfiction has been broadcast on Georgia Public Radio and published in the Louisville Review, Habersham Review, ACM (Another Chicago Magazine), Groundwater, and O, Georgia. She has also won awards and grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the Kentucky Chapter of the National Society of Arts and Letters.

"[Michelle Moore] . . . strikes gold in her depiction of cigar manufacturing in an era when the free market ruled. The factory is clearly the main character, a vivid, oppressive presence in the lives of its workers, and readers will not regret learning the nuts and bolts of its operation. High quality historical fiction."—Kirkus Reviews

"Moore . . . handles speech deflty, and the poetry of Charleston street lingo quickly shines through."—Star News Online

"An enthralling new novel."—Charleston Magazine

"Compelling. The Cigar Factory vividly portrays an unspoken but well-known fact about life in Charleston: It is rooted in Gullah Geechee culture and has close ties to West African heritage. From the Gullah language spoken by both white and black Charlestonians, to shared food ways, religious practices, and folk beliefs, Michele Moore's novel showcases the many ways that Charleston has been affected by the port city's large West African presence. In these pages characters of varying social classes and of European, African, and American heritages blend their truths about momentous events in Charleston history. Marvel at their stories and at all you will learn."—Ronald Daise, author, cultural preservationist, and past chair of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission

"The story whisks along, pulling the reader into a beautifully rendered Charleston of yore."—The Post and Courier

"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."—Pat Conroy, from the foreword

"The Cigar Factory is a musical prose poem. Important."—Will Patton, award-winning audio-book recording artist

2016 Winner, David J. Langum, Sr. Prize in American Historical Fiction

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