If you’ve forgotten – or perhaps never knew – just how much Charlotte has transformed itself in recent years, “27 Views of Charlotte: The Queen City in Prose & Poetry” offers a keen literary reminder.
This new collection, a mix of history, essays, fiction and poems, is the sixth volume in a successful series from Eno Publishers. Each book portrays a city through the perspectives of 27 local writers.
Hillsborough-based Eno Publishers launched the “27 Views” series in 2010 with “27 Views of Hillsborough.” When that book proved a hit, the press continued the series with Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, Asheville and now Charlotte. Two more “27 Views” collections, on Greensboro and coastal Carolina, are in the works.
Much of Charlotte’s story is about progress, and Jack Claiborne, a retired Charlotte Observer associate editor, provides a fine primer on the subject with his introduction. Charlotte, he writes, “has striven to catch the next wave in hopes of becoming the first, the biggest, the best, the tallest, the most admired, or whatever other superlative was available.”
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Since progress often means supplanting old with new, it’s not surprising that several pieces celebrate defunct landmarks, such as Eastland Mall and the Coffee Cup, the diner where black and white, rich and poor, enjoyed their collards and fried chicken while sitting shoulder to shoulder.
“The egalitarianism of it all took me by surprise – and gave me an appreciation that I otherwise didn’t have for the buttoned-down city of bankers I had just moved to,” Observer Associate Editor Fannie Flono writes.
In an essay titled “A Sense of Place,” novelist Mark de Castrique describes a family farm dating to the 1700s that was about to be replaced by a parking lot for airport travelers. “Fewer than eight miles from downtown Charlotte,” he writes, “the Bigham farm had survived a revolution, a civil war, a depression, but not prosperity.”
In this wide-ranging collection, UNC Charlotte’s Aimee Parkison profiles her quirky College Downs neighborhood while novelist Anna Jean Mayhew provides an excerpt from an upcoming novel set in Brooklyn, a black Charlotte neighborhood destroyed by urban renewal.
And Rye Barcott (“It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace”) describes the array of humanity he encounters while visiting Veterans Park with his 3-year-old daughter. There’s a boy from a posh part of Charlotte. There are also kids whose families are refugees from Eritrea.
“Veterans Park is the New South,” he writes. “Here, you find people from all kinds of backgrounds, classes, and worldviews. The place does not forget history or pretend that everything is relative. It stands as a salute to those who have served. It celebrates our past and our history without making us a captive of it.”