May 6—It took a pandemic for Columbia residents Edward and Christina Sledge to travel down memory lane together and connect all the dots. Though they grew up just blocks apart from each other in Brooklyn, New York, the two didn't cross paths until high school, when their lives became entwined forever.
"We were destined for each," said Christina of her husband of 21 years. "During lockdown, it made sense to buckle down and share our story."
In March, the couple released their first book together, "The Story of Christina and I: A Real-Life Urban Fairy Tale." Available on Amazon, the book will be available at Barnes & Noble bookstores in June.
"We've been writing it [for] two years," Edward said. "During the last year, we just put it together."
Their story is one of two different backgrounds. Edward grew up in poverty, surrounded by drugs and alcohol. Christina was born to teenage parents in a family full of love and support.
"Our families lived near each other, but we didn't know," Edward said. "We were born at the same hospital. Her school came to my school and did a play, "Romeo and Juliet.' We came that close."
In 1992, the two met as freshmen at Canarsie High School and dated until their senior year, when they broke up. Christina went on to attend Temple University in Philadelphia and Edward joined the Army. They kept in touch through Christina's younger brother, a friend of Edward's. When both were home for Christmas in 1999 — Edward on leave and Christina from her senior year of college — Edward proposed. They eloped two months later.
"I had always loved him. He was my first love," Christina said. "I knew I was supposed to be with him."
Their story continues from there, highlighting the difficulties of starting off with absolutely nothing, of living in separate states, getting jobs, supporting each other through school, raising a family and dealing with tragedy. Christina's brother was killed during a shooting in Baltimore in 2016.
"Once I got to college, I started writing papers," said Edward, who graduated from Armstrong Atlantic State University, now Georgia Southern University, and went to Towson University for graduate school. "For my thesis, I was inspired to write a family reflection story ... for my daughters."
From that thesis came the idea of writing a memoir, Edward said, with Christina's reflections included, too. They formatted their story into a timeline with each presenting their own takes of the events that shaped their lives.
"The first version was therapeutic, just getting it out," Christina said. "There were so many rewrites. 'What is the best way to say this?' We wanted to be diplomatic but truthful."
"I was tired of my own life," Edward admitted. "Going through it over and over, you catch little things. The worse thing is stopping."
The book, Christina added, is really a novella, as it is under 200 pages.
"It's the trend now social media," Christina said. "Shorter attention spans."
The couple created their own publishing company, Sledge House Media, and used a professional editor and designer. The project cost them about $1,500, Christina said.
"It is money well spent," Edward said. "Books never die."
They are planning to write and publish more books, together, too. Edward is working on a mystery and Christina is writing an entertainment book for the holidays.
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"I documented the whole process," said Christina of putting together their first book. "We learned a lot. I know the pitfalls. We are more efficient."
The two hope that by sharing their story, others will be inspired.
"Everyone's stories are important," Christina said. "We had so many difficulties, both small and big hurdles. I hope we inspire people to think about their lives."
"You don't have to be a millionaire or the smartest person in the room to meet some goals," Edward said. "We want people to enjoy it."
And, with a laugh he added.
"We want Oprah to get it," Edward said. "I want to sit on her couch."