'Kedzie' offers glimpse into life of slave, plantation owner on St. Helena Island

After reading Theodore Rosengarten's "Tombee" several years ago, South Carolina native Bonnie Stanard became fascinated with the lives of plantation owners and their slaves.

"It's just the day-to-day activities of this plantation owner on St. Helena Island," she said about the book. "I felt a real connection to this man's life."

That connection was so strong that the Columbia resident decided to delve deeper into her study of slavery. She began reading slave narratives. She also visited Tombee Plantation on St. Helena.

After about 10 years of researching and writing, Stanard has published her first novel.

In "Kedzie: Saint Helena Island Slave," the main character is taken in by a white woman on St. Helena Island.

An abolitionist, the woman takes good care of Kedzie, teaching her how to read and write. But when the woman dies, Kedzie is sent to work in the cotton fields.

"She thought she was going to die from that," Stanard said about Kedzie. "She had to get out. She was too intelligent just to take what happened to her and accept it."

Stanard said from there on Kedzie tries to figure out how to get out of those cottonfields.

She works her way up to becoming a house servant, working indoors instead of in the miserable heat of the outdoors.

But Kedzie soon discovers she would've been better off working in the fields. Her new master sexually abuses her. And Stanard said Kedzie knows if she can't get off the island, she will be destroyed.

"I don't think many people realize that's an impossible dream," Stanard said. "A person who is a slave on St. Helena Island ... couldn't possibly escape because there's only a ferry that goes to the mainland."

Stanard said Kenzie does eventually escape, with the help of an abolitionist preacher.

Stanard will release a companion novel, "Master of Westfall Plantation," this summer and, she hopes, a third one by next year.

In addition to historical fiction, Stanard also writes poetry and short stories.

"I think just about everybody who grew up in South Carolina is interested in our history," Stanard said.

"It's an exceptional history."