I’d like to start by saying that I have been visiting the Sea Islands near Beaufort, SC, for the last twenty years. During that time, I have met and spoken with the descendants of Gullah people. I have listened to the pronunciations of their words and attempted to duplicate the language patterns through characters, Ida Mae, Meta Jane, and Mose Lafitte.
While I was writing Catherine’s Cross, I read a novel, Daughter’s of the Dust by Julie Dash. Her novel follows her heroine’s introduction to the Sea Islands near Beaufort. Her mother having been raised on the Sea Islands, has moved north to New York City, but her daughter wants to know her relatives and the land of her ancestors. I thoroughly enjoyed Dash’s depiction of the islands and the Gullah people. In addition, I read The Gullahs of South Carolina by Pearce W. Hammond. He discusses the Gullah culture, their language, and superstitions. For instance, I learned that the cry of a screech owl is a sure sign of death. I reference this superstition in both The Cast Net and Catherine’s Cross.
Lastly, I purchased and scanned the Gullah New Testament, De Nyew Testament. I found the writings difficult to understand. For the characters in Catherine’s Cross who speak a version of Gullah, I decided that their pronunciations would be a mix of Gullah and Standard English so they could be understood. Each of the Gullah descendants in Catherine’s Cross are pure and honest individuals.