Congratulations: It's a Book!

Jenny Scarborough

Andrew Stern's first book is hot off the presses.

His wife, Methodist Pastor Laura Stern, organized a surprise pot luck dinner to celebrate.  The Rec Hall was filled with a diverse group of Ocracoke residents who wanted to congratulate Stern.  A few people even expressed interest in reading the academic study of Protestant and Catholic relationships in the antebellum South.

Congratulations: It's a Book!

Pastor Stern prepped the crowd for Andrew's arrival.  He believed he was coming for a clam chowder fundraising dinner, and looked sincerely startled when the crowd burst into loud applause as he and younger son Charlie, dressed in a Spiderman suit, arrived. 

Several copies of Southern Crucifix, Southern Cross were on hand.  "It's not a page turner," said Pastor Stern, but it is the first academic work to explore the topic. 

"How would she know?  She hasn't even read it," laughed her husband, the author. 

Stern attended university when "indecipherable theorists" were all the rage, and he sees the pitfalls of writing that is dense with jargon.  He hopes the book will be accessible to readers away from the ivory tower. 

"Usually history is one terrible thing after another," observed Stern, who was pleased that his research uncovered evidence that Protestants and Catholics in the pre-Civil War South actually got along.  In the 1800s, the US was probably the only nation "where Catholics could immigrate to a majority Protestant country without persecution," he said.

"Sometimes the ideals we have about America were actually true," Stern added.

Congratulations: It's a Book!

Stern's ideals led him to become a vegetarian, and Pastor Stern requested that the dishes also eschew (rather than chew?) meat.  It was probably the first vegetarian pot luck ever held on Ocracoke, said Karen Lovejoy. 

Barbara Adams baked a cake that said, "Congratulations, Andrew!  It's a book!" and Jennifer Hamlin led the crowd in singing For He's a Jolly Good Fellow.  That was another first for Stern, and possibly the first time that song has been sung at an island potluck. 

Stern, a Catholic, first became interested in the topic when he and his Protestant wife started dating.  It was a way to "cope with our romance," laughed Laura.

A graduate term paper morphed into a dissertation, and now it's a book published by the University of Alabama Press.  He researched and wrote for 8 or 9 years, while their three children were napping.

His first book may be his last, said Stern.  "I don't think I've done anything that involved that much labor."  He conceded that historical fiction, which doesn't require footnotes and citations, might get him back to his writer's desk.

Stern plans to keep his day job as Professor of Religion at NC Wesleyan in Rocky Mount, because he isn't counting on royalties from the sale of Southern Crucifix, Southern Cross to allow him to retire anytime soon. 

That didn't stop him from trying.  His book is the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list, he told the crowd.  The book has an attractive dust jacket, and makes for good decor, even if you never crack the spine. 

Books to Be Red owner Leslie Lanier will stock the book, despite her disappointment that there was no mac 'n' cheese at the potluck.   Don't live on Ocracoke and can't wait for your copy?  Try this link!

Ocracoke librarian Peter Vankevich said he'll make sure to find room for Southern Crucifix, Southern Cross.

More of Stern's work can be seen on Ocracoke Current, in his A First Draft of History columns.


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