Mary Ann Sternberg: M A S INK

Freelance writer and author

Winding Through Time

A collection of stories about colorful places along Louisiana's historic byway.

Once considered one of the most important waterways in the American southeast and a vital link in a shortcut from the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana's Bayou Manchac rests in virtual obscurity today. Few now notice the bayou—which runs for eighteen miles, forming the boundary between several south Louisiana parishes—or remember that everyone from French explorers and steamboat captains to modern-day loggers and fishermen have plied its waters and lived along its banks. Even fewer are aware that the bayou remains a place of striking, intense beauty in spots untouched by development and pollution. In Winding through Time, Mary Ann Sternberg interweaves the bayou's history with tales, anecdotes, and personal observations, creating an entertaining and educational introduction to this overlooked natural haven.
With the tenacity and skill of a historical detective, Sternberg uncovers Bayou Manchac's rich and colorful past. She reveals that the waterway that most know only by weathered highway signs on the parish line served, several times in its history, as an international border, forming part of the northern boundary of the "Isle of Orleans." She recalls the flourishing Native American cultures that occupied sites along the bayou as early as 250 b.c. and describes the many unsuccessful schemes over the years to make it navigable and thus provide a major commercial artery connecting the Mississippi River with Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. Bayou Manchac survives still, she shows, as a somewhat frayed relic of our natural past valued mainly for its drainage capacity and abused by polluters.

More than simply an environmental history, however, Sternberg's Winding through Time offers her personal narrative of "discovering" Bayou Manchac a few years ago and her growing awareness of its untamed beauty, historical significance, and threatened well-being. She traveled the bayou, meeting some of the people who live along its banks and who shared many of their stories. Through her engaging prose and lively commentary, she succeeds in providing a life-history and, indeed, a personality, for this geographical feature.

Sternberg shines a long overdue spotlight on Bayou Manchac, questioning how such a valuable resource could have become so diminished. As she eloquently illustrates, the wandering tale of this little waterway, though unique, also strikes a cautionary note for other small historic American streams.

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"The historical narrative Sternberg pieces together is periodically fascinating…The book stands as an interesting rumination on human history, the environment, and their interaction."
-- Journal of Southern History

"More than anything else, Sternberg makes us feel the sense of place that Manchac evokes."
-- Times Picayune

"Her research and first person narrative are expertly balanced, a model of fine historical writing."
-- Cultural Vistas

"If (Bayou Manchac) does survive modernity’s onslaught, Mary Ann Sternberg’s affectionate rescue of its forgotten past will deserve some of the credit."
-- Lawrence Powell, editor, Reconstructing Louisiana

"…a fascinating, nicely turned story and an important addition to the canon of literature about Louisiana’s largely underappreciated estuary and its indispensable place in the history and fabric of the state."
-- Ken Wells, author, The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous

"Winding Through Time is important reading for all those interested in Louisiana waterways and history.
-- C.C. Lockwood, professional natural history photographer

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