Frazier caps off Gwinnett Reads

DULUTH - Charles Frazier said he doesn't make many appearances unless he's on a book tour, but when he does, the events are usually associated with a library.

That's fitting, he said, because he thinks libraries are important resources, and he uses them a lot when he's writing.

Frazier, the critically acclaimed author of "Cold Mountain" and "Thirteen Moons," on Saturday headlined the finale event of the Gwinnett County Public Library's Gwinnett Reads program.

Nancy Stanbery-Kellam, the library's executive director, said the program was started in 2003 to get residents to read and discuss the same book. This year's selection was "Thirteen Moons."

Frazier said he developed the idea for his second novel while he was doing some research. He came across some writings that referenced a man who only spoke Cherokee. He said he was fascinated by that and wanted to know more.

He was also inspired to learn more about how the Eastern Band of the Cherokees was able to stay in North Carolina while so many Cherokees were sent west on the Trail of Tears.

Hundreds of people packed a room at the Gwinnett Center on Saturday evening to hear Frazier talk about his writing and read from his book.

Lawrenceville resident Harriet Cole said she came to the event because she read both of Frazier's books some time ago.

"I thought they were wonderful and captured something amazing about the western North Carolina mountains," she said.

During Saturday evening's program, Myrtle Driver Johnson, a "Beloved Woman" of the Eastern Band, also took the stage. Johnson translated "Thirteen Moons" into her native Cherokee language, making it the first known book to be translated from English into the dialect.

Johnson said Cherokee is an endangered language. There are only about 300 fluent speakers left, and most are at least 50 years old, she said.

Some of the proceeds of the event's ticket sales will benefit the cultural preservation efforts of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, library officials said.

Frazier read two selections from his book, and Johnson read the same sections in Cherokee.

"You can all hear the beauty of that language," Frazier said, adding, "For me, the Cherokee language is the first way the southern Appalachian lands found a human voice. ... The culture of the United States would be poorer if that language becomes lost."