“Anne Brooker James has offered us a gift – a gorgeous, powerful, moving story that is also a page-turner. While reminiscent of Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides or Delia Owens’ Where Crawdads Sing, James has done something unique. She has given voice to a place, a people and its history. It is hard for me to believe that this is a debut novel. I savored every word.” – Mary Morris, author of All the Way to the Tiger and The Jazz Palace
The Marsh Bird (Köehler Books), a tale of survival that defines a family by the bonds of love and care that created it, is an unforgettable love story that delves deeply into the unique American sub-culture of the Gullah Geechee people, descendants of slaves who live and thrive in the lush marshes of the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry. Written by Anne Brooker James, the novel, her first, is being published on the author’s 90th birthday.
Woven with murder, mystery, and magic, The Marsh Bird tells the compelling story of a young, orphaned, multiracial girl from Louisiana and a white teen abandoned as an infant in the Lowcountry who are both embraced by the residents of a rural, Gullah Geechee sea island community.
Cassandra King Conroy, the New York Times best-selling author of The Sunday Wife and My Life with Pat Conroy, called The Marsh Bird “a remarkable debut novel, a Lowcountry love story that will break your heart, but put it back together.”
The Rosa Parks League and The Healing author Jonathan Odell said The Marsh Bird is “a wise and perceptive novel.” He added, “The author weaves enduring folklore into an engrossing tale of family, race, and belonging that is as old as America and as relevant as today. Book groups will love this one!”
Anne Brooker James was born in Tampa, FL, to pioneer families. She began writing when she was six and never stopped. She raised two daughters, worked as a journalist and food columnist, and opened the highly successful Anna’s Deli on Siesta Key Beach, Florida. She and her husband, Robert Camp Ray, lived for a few years on Spring Island, near Beaufort, SC, where the incredible beauty of the Lowcountry, the Gullah Geechee, and their culture spoke to her heart. After her husband’s death, she began writing The Marsh Bird. She has enjoyed an interesting life and still thrives in nature. The Marsh Bird is her first novel.
In a recent interview, the 90-year-old Brooker James said, “I don’t give much thought to my age. If I did, I would be spending all my time sitting in the garden facing the sun! I started the book about 30 years ago. I thought I would write a very short tale just for practice. I never thought of it as a novel. But then things started coming to me, and the story developed on its own.
“But then I married. Bob was a bit older than me, and he wanted to travel, so I put the story aside but never forgot it. . . . It was only after he died, ten years ago, that I started to focus on my writing in earnest.”
Brooker James was introduced to the Gullah Geechee culture and heard the Gullah language spoken “nearly every day” when she and her husband moved to an island in the Lowcountry, where the descendants of slaves have lived an almost isolated life to this day. “Most of those enslaved in this area,” she said, “came from several West African tribes, each with their own language. Once here, they were intentionally separated from each other by their masters to make it more difficult for them to communicate with each other. But many dared cross boundaries from plantation to plantation and, in the end, they created a new, shared language, one that combined their own native languages with words spoken by their American slave owners. This is how the Gullah language, the language of their ancestors, was born.” Her novel, The Marsh Bird, is seasoned with a few words from the Gullah language.
The Marsh Bird will be available July 27, 2021. Anne Brooker James hopes to visit the Beaufort area soon after for book signing events.