The Writer's Block
Montpelier Spring 2000
Preserving Charleston's Past, Shaping its Future
The Life and Times of Susan Pringle Frost
University of South Carolina Press, 1999
by Sidney Bland
Sidney Bland is professor of history and co-chair of the American Studies
Department. His book, Preserving Charleston's Past, Shaping its Future:
The Life and Times of Susan Pringle Frost, was a finalist in the 1999
South Carolina Historical Society's "best book of the year in South
Carolina history" competition. The book illuminates the life of
Susan Pringle Frost, a pioneer in historic preservation and a feminist
whose activism helped save Charleston's old architecture and generated
a wider preservation movement. Frost was an outspoken champion of a
host of important causes, including women's rights, a more active and
accountable local government, and better treatment of African Americans.
In this biography, Bland enumerates Frost's many accomplishments and
chronicles what he considers to be her greatest achievement - spearheading
a historic preservation movement in Charleston that became the model
for preservation throughout the country.
Frost founded the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings, one
of the nation's oldest historic preservation groups and the forerunner
of the Preservation Society of Charleston. Bland offers vivid insight
into the courage, perseverance and eccentricity of a woman he considers
complex. The book traces specific staples of present-day historic preservation
to Frost's visionary initiatives. Bland has published numerous articles
in historical magazines and historic preservation journals.
Flowering Plants of the Galápagos
Cornell University Press, 1999
by Conley K. McMullen
Flowering Plants of the Galápagos by biology professor Conley
K. McMullen may be the world's first and last look at the endemic plants
of the Galápagos, which are in imminent danger of extinction
due to pressures exerted by man. The Galápagos, a 13-island chain
off the coast of Ecuador, was made famous in 1845 by naturalist Charles
Darwin. "Many plants native to these islands are tremendously threatened,"
says McMullen. "Some of them are found nowhere else in the world.
To lose them because of interference by humans would be a tragedy."
McMullen, who first traveled to the Galápagos in 1983 as a graduate
student studying plant pollination, says that some areas of native vegetation
are being choked out by imported plants that thrive in the moderate
climate. "Many of these imported plants have no practical uses,"
he says. "Even the quinine tree, which produces a treatment for
malaria, is useless in the Galápagos. There is no malaria in
the islands, but the tree is there in nearly uncontrollable numbers."
Not written as an "environmental proclamation," McMullen's
book is a practical, in-depth guide to the plant life of the islands
based on his fieldwork over the last 16 years. Many reference works
have been written on the animal life of the Galápagos, but McMullen's
book on the flora of the region is the only one of its kind and is geared
toward both the layman and the scientist. "On many of my visits
to the islands, naturalist guides would ask me to accompany them on
their trips," he says. "They knew plenty about the animals,
but didn't know the plants, and thus couldn't answer the tourists' questions
on these beautiful plants."
McMullen says that protecting plant life in the Galápagos is
a concern of the Ecuadorian government, but one that is subject to available
funding. "Certainly from a practical standpoint no one will miss
some of the Galápagos plants if they become extinct," admits
McMullen, "but if we allow that to happen, we help reduce the wonderful
diversity of life in nature. We impoverish ourselves and our world."
The Appalachian Forest: A Search for Roots and
Stackpole Books, 1998
by Chris Bolgiano
"In her book, Chris Bolgiano writes with knowledge
and passion about the region's history and ecology and strikes a strong,
intelligent blow for the preservation of eastern wilderness," writes
Christopher Camuto, author of Another Country: Journeying Toward the
Chris Bolgiano is director of special collections at JMU's Ronald E.
Carrier Library. She has published articles in The New York Times, Audubon,
Wilderness and The Washington Post. She has also authored Mountain Lion:
An Unnatural History of Pumas and People (1995 Stackpole Books).
The Appalachian Forest describes a place once rich with old-growth woodlands
- American chestnut trees 10 feet in diameter, tulip poplars more than
200 feet tall, warbler and wild turkey abundant beyond imagine - whose
landscape has been systematically devastated by continuous tree farming,
cutting and mining. Meticulously researched, Bolgiano's book compares
the past and present land and people of this region once known as "The
Great Forest" and explores the hope of an ecological recovery.
Above and beyond its biological overview, this book explores mountain
life and its many contrasts, such as generations of human poverty amid
a wealth of natural resources. The mountain farmers, Cherokee, foresters,
biologists, bear hunters and grassroots activists that Bolgiano comes
to know all define a part of the diverse Appalachian region. The message
of Bolgiano's Appalachian Forest is the need to preserve mature, connected
forests for the benefit of all living things in the great Appalachian