Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Local author tells story by creating “Family Tree”

Local author Shellie Moore Guy wrote “The Family Tree” in 2019 and partnered with the local publishing company Midwest Writing Center to share her family’s story, tied into United States and Quad Cities history.

On the morning of April 20 at the Rock Island Public Library Watts-Midtown Branch, Guy spoke about her family tree dating back to the slavery time period in the United States.

“The Family Tree” narrates history dating back to 1836, recalling generations enslaved on plantations in Glasgow, Kentucky. 

In 1861, the Civil War began between the North and South, a fight that had the power to change slavery entirely. 

There was a decision to be made amongst the enslaved people: if they joined the war to be a part of that change or not. Guy continues to tell the story of her enslaved family member Charley, who decided he would fight. 

The new soldiers received their uniforms and were assigned to guard confederate prisoners of war at Rock Island Prison Barracks. Charley and his family traveled with him but would soon be separated again where he left for Vicksburg, Mississippi with the hopes they would see them again. When the war ended and enslaved people eventually gained their freedom, Charley returned back to Rock Island to see his family. Port Byron, IL became the city Charley and his family settled into with a job he had always wanted to do while enslaved in Glasgow, a horse doctor.

Guy provides both illustrations and real photos of the characters that were her family members, providing clear visuals while reading the journey to freedom. While this story discusses troubled times, the ending comes with hopes and dreams from these characters to be shared with today’s youth.

“There’s that hard conversation about slavery. There’s no other way around that. Kids are going to ask ‘What does that mean?’” Guy said. “But then there’s that other part of that story that has to do with ‘Look what he did, he became a veterinarian and raised his family.’”

Getting the opportunity to use local resources to tell her family’s journey allows the audience to develop an understanding of their family’s background as well.

Susan Foster, director of youth services at the downtown branch of the Rock Island Public Library, read “The Family Tree” and said that going back quite a ways in genealogy was very impressive.

“I think some of the kids will be interested in the information about the Civil War. I feel they will be interested in how the story starts off with the family,” Foster said. “I hope there’s more involvement with the family because kids are going to have all these questions. We all have stories. Local is important, it’s our local people, and I think it’s nice to support them.”

Lisa Lockheart, the publicity and outreach liaison helped promote this event to get the word out to the community. Lockheart recognizes the hardships of author’s getting their work out in the world and sees the value of resources the Rock Island Public Library has to offer for authors.

“Writing is somewhat of a lonely thing, it’s just you and the page,” Lockheart said. “Being able to develop this lovely story to go out into the community and share it with others is a lovely thing to help the community hear about those stories.”

The collaboration of local resources Guy used allowed “The Family Tree” to be spread throughout the libraries in the Quad Cities and The Midwest Writing Center sent the book to every elementary school library in the Quad Cities as well.

With the emotional story telling of “The Family Tree,” there’s a new way for children to learn about history with the hopes of them sharing their stories as well.

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