Posts Tagged ‘Appalachian Culture’

Appalachian Regional Commission receives citizen input

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 - posted by interns

By Michael Shrader

The geographic area covered by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The geographic area covered by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

On June 4, the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) held one of its five 2016-2020 Strategic Plan Listening Sessions in Morehead, Ky., to gather ideas from Appalachian citizens that will inform the commission’s plan for improving economic opportunities in communities across the region.

The Morehead Conference Center was full of forward-thinking minds from Kentucky and surrounding states who explained opportunities and barriers they see in their own communities. Many common themes emerged related to tourism, and adventure tourism in particular. Some attendants cited the need to cultivate and support family farms to create a local and sustainable Appalachian food system. Others spotlighted the opportunity for renewable energy generation in their communities.

The Obama administration’s POWER+ plan was mentioned several times as an opportunity that must be capitalized on. POWER+ invests in Appalachian workers and jobs through unique programs, many of which bear semblance to those discussed in Morehead. Appalachian Voices’ economic diversification campaign is currently building support for this proposal in Southwest Virginia.

Some attendees had a difficult time differentiating between opportunities and barriers to progress in their communities. Where some saw a vast, employable and idle workforce, others saw a lack of educational opportunities and substance abuse posing serious barriers to workforce development. Concrete barriers to development include a lack of local infrastructure such as highways, water systems and, especially, broadband Internet connectivity.

The massive amount of land owned by absentee corporations and extractive industries presents a unique challenge to regional development throughout most of central Appalachia and was mentioned several times throughout the session. Many residents cited less concrete barriers to progress such as a lack of hope and progressive leadership, and the enduring negative stereotypes associated with the region. Finally, there were many who stressed the need for the restoration of the landscape after mining and the resources to create jobs to do so.

Attendees outlined what they saw as ARC’s role in taking advantage of the opportunities and breaking down the barriers for development in their communities. The resounding consensus was a need to access capital and workforce development resources. In addition, attendees felt that ARC needed to work harder to make sure that groups in Appalachia could gain easier access to resources outside of ARC. Some felt that we needed to find ways to craft new language to talk about our problems and solutions. Others cited the need to address to vast health and wellness issues in the region.

Ultimately, many agreed that ARC, as a federal-state partnership, needs to broker change in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Appalachia. One attendee remarked that ARC must facilitate the conversation to look beyond Appalachia to other struggling regions across the nation to solve systemic problems and implement a new ‘true cost’ economic model.

The listening session brought a wide range of individuals and regional stakeholders together to share their unique perspectives. But some still felt that a representative range of people had not been able to participate. In fact, with the all-day session held on a Wednesday, many in attendance argued that it was impossible for the majority of working people to provide input, and stressed need for better stakeholder involvement and opportunities for public involvement.

Silas House: A Remembrance of Jean Ritchie

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 - posted by guestbloggers

{ Editor’s Note } Silas House is an author, Kentuckian and activist, who also serves on Appalachian Voices’ board of directors. Silas shares this remembrance of Jean Ritchie, the Kentucky-born folk icon, who died yesterday. Last May, Appalachian Voices was graciously invited to participate in and benefit from “Dear Jean,” a tribute concert to Ritchie in Berea, Ky. Portions of this tribute are excerpted from the 2009 book Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal by Silas House and Jason Howard, University Press of Kentucky

Silas House (middle) with Jean Ritchie, and his partner Jason Howard, editor of literary magazine Appalachian Heritage.

Silas House (middle) with Jean Ritchie, and his partner Jason Howard, editor of the literary magazine Appalachian Heritage.

Above all, kindness always lit up the face of Jean Ritchie, who passed away June 1 at the age of 92. And she possessed the same kindness in her hands, in the slight, humble bend of her neck, in her beaming smile. And of course that kindness came through the clearest — the cleanest — in her voice.

It was there in her speaking voice, but also in her singing, the very thing that caused The New York Times to proclaim her “a national treasure” and the reason she became widely known as “The Mother of Folk.” But along with that kindness was a fierceness that led her to become one of the major voices in the fight for environmental justice.

I grew up in Southeastern Kentucky, two counties away from where Ritchie had been raised. She was a source of incredible pride for my people. Everyone I knew loved Jean Ritchie, and they especially loved the way she represented Appalachian people: with generosity and sweetness, yes. But also with defiance and strength. By the time I first met her in 2006, Jean was a true legend. Although I was in total awe of her, it didn’t take me long to feel right at home and we became fast friends.

I loved visiting with her and her wonderfully devoted husband, George Pickow, who passed away in 2010. Anytime I would comment on her legendary status, she’d brush it aside, embarrassed. But she was a true inspiration to so many of us. Her accolades are too many to list. In 2002 she was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest award given in the nation to traditional artists and musicians. Her original compositions have been performed by such artists as Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Judy Collins, Emmylou Harris, the Judds, Kathy Mattea, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and many others.

Jean Ritchie, 1922 - 2015

Jean Ritchie, 1922 – 2015

Born in 1922, she went to New York to work in a settlement school and was amazed to find that she eventually became well-known for her singing, playing, and songwriting. By the end of the 1960s Ritchie had recorded twenty albums, served on the board of and appeared at the first Newport Folk Festival (where her iconic performance of “Amazing Grace” is still talked about by anyone who was there), and was considered one of the leaders in the folk music revival.

She had also single-handedly popularized the mountain dulcimer. And steadily throughout her career she had become more and more concerned with the environmental injustices facing her homeland. She wrote her first environmental-minded songs under the pseudonym of Than Hall so her parents wouldn’t be harassed and because she felt using a man’s name might make them easier to become published. But eventually she embraced the fight for environmental justice and became a symbol of the movement.

In 1974 she recorded what many consider the first of her three true masterpieces (along with None But One and Mountain Born) out of her forty albums. Clear Waters Remembered contains three of the original compositions she is most often recognized for: “West Virginia Mine Disaster,” “Blue Diamond Mines,” and “Black Waters.” It would also be the album that would solidify Ritchie’s position as an environmentalist and activist.

“Black Waters” in particular became a rallying cry for an ever-growing outrage against the environmental devastation being caused by strip mining, a form of coal mining that became prominent in the 1960s. The practice was giving many Appalachians pause, especially since most of the coal companies were able to mine the coal with broad form deeds, many of which had been sold decades before. Ritchie became a part of this movement with “Black Waters,” which became its anthem.

After struggling with writing “Black Waters” for awhile, Ritchie finished the song after being invited to participate in a memorial concert for Woody Guthrie. She performed it for the first time during that show and introduced it as something Guthrie “might have written had he lived in Eastern Kentucky.” Besides being a powerful environmental song, it also resonated with Appalachians who might not have identified themselves as environmentalists but certainly had a love for the land in their very blood.

1977’s None But One is Ritchie’s most critically-lauded album; it was even awarded the prestigious Critics Award from Rolling Stone magazine. The album contained two more of Ritchie’s most famous songs of social consciousness, “None But One,” a treatise on racial harmony, and “The Cool of the Day,” an ancient-sounding spiritual which demands environmental stewardship and is now widely used as one of the major anthems in the fight against mountaintop removal. It is a song that has already achieved classic status by being included in the hymnal of the Society of Friends. Ritchie allowed Kentuckians For The Commonwealth to use the song on their popular compilation Songs for the Mountaintop, which raised money for the fight against mountaintop removal. In 2007 Ritchie performed the song at The Concert for the Mountains, an event held in New York City with Robert Kennedy, Jr. in conjunction with a delegation of Appalachians who attended the United Nations Conference on Environmental Stability to speak out about the devastation caused by the form of mining.

“I never feel that I’m doing very much to help our poor mountains,” Ritchie modestly told me in 2008 after I told her she was one of the reasons I had become an environmentalist. “Beyond making up songs and singing them, I don’t know what else to do. It seems an accolade I don’t deserve.” I wanted to tell her that words and music were the main ways we had always fought back, and that her words and music had done more than she could ever imagine. But then I saw that there were tears on her eyes. Her face was turned to the white light of the window and she was lit as if beatific. I had always thought she was. In that moment, Jean was visibly upset. “Sometimes, when I think of how it’s all gone …” she began, but had to stop speaking.

Jean leaves behind a legacy of love and light. Of kindness and dignity and strength. She fought back with words and music, and she taught us to do the same. I can’t imagine a better way to be remembered than that.

Jean Ritchie’s “Black Waters” performed by John McCutcheon, Tim O’Brien, Suzy Bogguss, Kathy Mattea, Stuart Duncan and Bryn Davies.

Walking the Walk of Preservation

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by Dac Collins

Experiencing Appalachia’s Past, One Frontier at a Time

By Matt Grimley

Warren Wilson College field school students help uncover Appalachia’s 16th-century Spanish history at the Fort San Juan excavation site near Morganton, N.C., in June 2014. Here, the students are sifting for artifacts. Photo courtesy Warren Wilson Archaeology Lab

Warren Wilson College field school students help uncover Appalachia’s 16th-century Spanish history at the Fort San Juan excavation site near Morganton, N.C., in June 2014. Here, the students are sifting for artifacts. Photo courtesy Warren Wilson Archaeology Lab

A small clay bead. A hunk of carved soapstone. A shattered pipe.

“You can’t put a shovel in the ground at the Berry Site without finding artifacts,” says David Moore, an archaeology professor at Warren Wilson College outside of Asheville, N.C.

Before Sir Walter Raleigh or the Puritans, there were the Spanish. Since nearly the start of the 1500s, they had marched through swamps and forests into the heart of the yet-to-be United States. They were fresh from conquests of native populations in Central and South America, and they wanted more. More state-level societies to manipulate for their economic gain. More silver. More gold.

In 1566, Juan Pardo and his troops built six forts as they plowed from the Carolina coast to the Appalachians. Historians knew the locations of these forts from Spanish documents, but no supporting archaeological evidence had ever been found.

That is, until a couple years back. The Berry Site, located on a tributary of the Catawba River near Morganton, N.C., was home to the Native American town of Joara, as well as Fort San Juan, which the Spanish built in 1567. After digging for years, Moore’s group finally uncovered a ditch outlining the fort, giving life to what they had only read of.

Now they had to show it to the world and keep it safe.

“Preservation in archaeology is a tricky subject,” says Moore. “For us, preservation involves as much education as anything else.”

Above the south end of the old Fort San Juan moat, Warren Wilson College students help excavate the site near Morganton, N.C. Photo courtesy Warren Wilson Archaeology Lab

Above the south end of the old Fort San Juan moat, Warren Wilson College students help excavate the site near Morganton, N.C. Photo courtesy Warren Wilson Archaeology Lab

Moore’s archaeological team is composed of students and fellow academics. They work mainly with private landowners who are willing to preserve their sites and allow access to researchers.

History, it seems, is lost every day: already, Christmas tree nurseries and other landscaping projects have ruined about 25 potential research sites in the area. Moore notes that Exploring Joara, an educational archaeology nonprofit that he helped to create, brings in school groups and kids to their dig sites. The group’s interpretive center has also helped educate local governments, businesses and people, totaling more than 10,000 contacts just last year. He hopes that Joara will encourage local residents to think back on the land and its layered history, and to help conserve it.

After building their fort, the Spanish lasted only 18 months in the Appalachians. The native people, realizing their gifts of food and services would not be reciprocated, burned down the strange forts and killed all but one soldier. The Spanish failure opened the way for the English and the dramatic morphing of the American frontier.

The Sense for Change

At the center of preserving history is the growing market of heritage tourism, where travelers schedule their vacations around historical landmarks. It’s a booming industry, according to a 2009 study from the U.S. Cultural and Heritage Tourism Marketing Council, with more than 110 million heritage-driven tourists pumping $192 billion into the U.S. economy every year.

Many communities find that investment into landmarks yields more money. The Appalachian Regional Commission reported in 2010 that every 40 cents the federal agency spent on tourism projects spurred another dollar in private investment. In the case of Burke County, N.C., for example, where Joara and Morganton are located, tourism jobs increased 5.8 percent in 2013 alone. That’s the largest jump in such jobs out of any North Carolina county that year, says Ed Phillips, director of the Burke County Tourism Development Authority.

History abounds underfoot, and yet material preservation is often facilitated only by a single mean: ownership.

“To control your own destiny,” says Rick Wood, Tennessee state director of the Trust for Public Land, “you have to buy a piece of property.” Landowners, he says, can also protect the land in perpetuity through an easement, a legal arrangement where an organization preserves the property and the landowner receives money or tax benefits in return. Bequesting land in a will to a favored organization will also do the job of preservation.

Wood notes that even in rural places, historical preservation garners growth. In Charleston, Tenn., for example, the community has invested in trails and a greenway around its historical Fort Cass, which served as an internment camp for Cherokee, Creek and enslaved African Americans at the beginning of the Trail of Tears in 1838. Of the 15,000 people who were forcibly removed from their homes, it is likely that several thousand died in such internment camps or along the cruel march to their new home in Oklahoma.

History, whether good or bad, provides a sense of place. And more and more, Wood says, communities want to build their own place in history.

What Could Have Been

View of the ancient Serpent Mound in southeast Ohio. Photo courtesy Arc of Appalachia

View of the ancient Serpent Mound in southeast Ohio. Photo courtesy Arc of Appalachia

It winds through the rolling farmland and forests of southern Ohio, lifting just above the Earth, stretching to 1,348 feet long and weighing innumerable tons.

The Serpent Mound, under consideration for UNESCO World Heritage site status, is the world’s largest surviving example of an animal effigy mound. A huge number of original earthworks in Ohio — placed along livable rivers and arable valleys — are already destroyed.

Serpent Mound, thankfully, was protected from the get-go, says Crystal Narayana, program director for the Arc of Appalachia, which manages the site as well as thousands of acres of regional wilderness and historical sites. The mound was made a publicly-accessible archaeological park in the late 1800s, and has been in the hands of Ohio History Connection for more than 100 years. Dense forest buffers the 60 acres and a tributary of Ohio Brush Creek, home to endangered fish and mussels, from potential development.

A few earthworks exist in government or nonprofit hands, Narayana says, but many lie with private owners, who may not always have preservation in mind. Twice, she says, the Arc of Appalachia has stepped in to save earthwork sites from the auction block. Her organization, which has saved 4,000 acres of wilderness and historical sites since 1995, will soon start fundraising to buy another site back from a mining company.

“The people who live here are just not very aware of their significance, and that is unfortunate,” she says in an email.

More than 40,000 visitors come every year to Serpent Mound, a little more than an hour east from Cincinnati — which, incidentally, was built over an earthwork. Tourists at the serpentine effigy can visit a museum, walk on trails and take in the panoramic view from an observation tower.

Unlike other earthworks, Serpent Mound was not a burial site. It holds no attributable artifacts. Instead, current research suggests it may have been built to direct spirits of the dead to farther-on resting spots. Nearby conical burial mounds suggest the builders may have been from the Adena Culture or the Fort Ancient Culture, whose timeframes run separate from each other by more than a millennia.

“I think the modern people of Appalachia have a lot in common with the ancient Native Americans,” Narayana says. They lived off the land, hunted, gathered nuts and grew gardens. Native American blood persists in the region, though lessened from earlier times, and preserving this place of mystery may be just one more important step to connecting with the shared past.

Lost Time

At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, reenactors commemorate the first crossing of the gap by European settlers in 1775. The trail marker denotes the beginning of the Boone Trace pathway at the park. Sam Compton, president of The Boone Society, notes that a gap in the trees seems to form a heart above Daniel Boone. Photo by Roberta Mills, Boone Society

At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, reenactors commemorate the first crossing of the gap by European settlers in 1775. The trail marker denotes the beginning of the Boone Trace pathway at the park. Sam Compton, president of The Boone Society, notes that the light striking the trees seems to form a heart above Daniel Boone. Photo by Roberta Mills, Boone Society

The race to save history has always been a race against time. Stories fade without frequent telling, and for Sam Compton, who is married to a descendent of Daniel Boone, the retelling of Boone’s story is personal.

Compton, as president of The Boone Society, wanted to make a more perpetual reminder of his backcountry legacy. Using his background as a businessman, he began the process of making a heritage trail called the Boone Trace Corridor.

The corridor of roadside stops would follow the footsteps of famous frontiersman Daniel Boone. In 1775, on the eve of the country’s independence, he was paid by the Transylvania Company to take 30 axmen and clear a path for settlers from the Cumberland Gap about 119 miles north to Fort Boonesborough, Ky.

The trail currently passes a handful of historic cities, state parks and museums. Under Compton’s guidance, and with help from more than 120 state and local partners, the path will expand to include more sites and a series of self-guided education stations along the road. “The more places that you can create within your county, [the more the tourists will] slow the traffic down and they’ll spend more money in that county,” says Compton.

A trail marker denotes the Boone Trace as it begins it's pathway across the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Photo by Sam Compton

A trail marker denotes the Boone Trace as it begins it’s pathway across the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Photo by Sam Compton

Tourists are no longer the byproduct of historic preservation; they are mechanisms by which it happens. As such, Compton is focused on making an adventure of the Boone Trace. Towns and highways block a fully walkable trail such as the Appalachian Trail, but the corridor can still step off to dramatic destinations. Just off the road, beyond the education stations and history signage, visitors could step in the exact footsteps of Daniel Boone, canoe the rivers, walk the trails and take horses into the backcountry. Activity becomes meaning felt through cultural memory, and the end result is something that everyone can keep.

“There would be no Oregon Trail or Santa Fe Trail or Gateway to the West in St. Louis had it not been for Daniel Boone making those first steps,” says Compton.

He says that Boone is already vanishing from school curriculums. The Kentucky Department of Education is working on new Daniel Boone lessons, but he’s still worried that it won’t be enough.

History becomes old, tired. Kids will stop learning about Boone, and then one fine day, he’s gone. One of the society’s Boone impersonators, speaking about the disappearance of frontier history, once said to Compton, “It’s almost like God created man and then there was the Civil War.”

Like all history — that which you can still hear or feel or touch — it was and is so much more than that.

TRAILING THE PAST

Lewis and Clark Eastern Legacy Trail:
Though still needing a final study and congressional approval, a proposed road route would follow the pair’s fascinating trip back to Monticello and Washington, D.C, from Louisville, Ky. Did you know Lewis took an astronomical observation at the Cumberland Gap in 1806? Or that Clark was a month behind Lewis because he was courting a Louisville woman?

Trail of Tears:
A section of the the Unicoi Turnpike Trail — one of the oldest known trails in North America — was used by prehistoric Americans, later tribes and European settlers before serving as part of the Trail of Tears for Cherokee and Creek tribes. A two-and-a-half mile segment of the trail was recently transferred to the U.S. Forest Service for public access and preservation.
overmountain_logo
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail:
The Overmountain Men of the Appalachian frontier won the Battle of Kings Mountain and helped win the Revolutionary War. Nowadays, you can follow these frontiersmen’s footings through 330 miles of roadways or a separate 87 miles of walkable paths from Virginia to South Carolina. Fun enough to start another Whiskey Rebellion!

Appalachian Voices Book Club

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by allison

Appalachia’s triumphs and tragedies, its beauty and mystery, and its people’s tenacity, love and good humor have long been enshrined in fiction. This year, stories of the region’s struggles with coal are reaching a national audience thanks to John Grisham’s bestselling “Gray Mountain,” a legal thriller that pits a small but dedicated team of individuals against a rapacious coal industry. Also spreading awareness, the debut novel from Christopher Scotton weaves the impacts of mountaintop removal mining into a poignant story of humanity and healing.

Across the region, writers are offering brilliant new work of all stripes, including several don’t-miss endeavors reviewed here. We also take a look at the many ways regional writers are taking advantage of the freedoms afforded by the self-publishing movement.

To find more of the best recent writing on Appalachia, we suggest a visit to your local librarian!

Gray Mountain by John Grisham
GirlsAtomicCity
Turning_Carolina_Red-1

Museum Celebrates Birthplace of Country Music

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by Dac Collins

By Megan Northcote

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe listens to a Bristol Sessions tune with Jessica Turner, the museum’s executive director. Photo by Jonathan McCoy

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe listens to a Bristol Sessions tune with Jessica Turner, the museum’s executive director. Photo by Jonathan McCoy

When Salt Lake City native Thomas Richardson took a family trip to the city of Bristol on the Virginia-Tennessee line, in 2003, he had to admit he was a little disappointed.

Having grown up in a family of “old-time music living-room pickers,” Richardson had hoped his cross-country journey to a town where country music got its start would have had a little more to show for itself than a downtown mural depicting a smattering of country music greats.

Last August, Richardson, who holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and is pursuing a doctorate in folklore, got his wish with the opening of The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Va. where he currently serves as curator of education and outreach.

The museum is housed in a historical brick building just three blocks away from the recording studio of the renowned 1927 Bristol Sessions. These recordings were the first widely successful recordings of country music, although there were recordings as early as 1922.

In 1927, Ralph Peer, a record producer from the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York, traveled to Bristol, a booming railroad town where regional musicians often jammed together while waiting for the next train. In Bristol, Peer set up a portable recording studio inside the Taylor-Christian Hat Company on State Street.

Over the course of 10 days, he recorded 76 songs by 19 different acts originating from New York to Atlanta, including yodeling sensation Jimmie Rodgers, American folk group The Carter Family, and Ernest Stoneman, the recording veteran who encouraged Peer to travel to Bristol.

While many of the acts were pre-arranged, Richardson describes how A.P. Carter, founder of The Carter Family, just happened to see an ad recruiting local talent. Together, A.P., his wife, Sara, and his eight months pregnant sister-in-law, Maybelle, traveled 20 miles by truck in the heat of summer to record in Bristol, quickly becoming one of the most influential groups in country music history.

Yet, not all acts from the Bristol Sessions have endured such a lasting legacy. While Peer primarily produced “hillbilly records” featuring white, Southern talent, the museum does highlight a little-known record by El Watson, the lone African American act recorded at the 1927 session.

At the museum, visitors can watch the introductory film, “Bound to Bristol,” narrated by Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash. Visitors can then hear all of the original Bristol recordings and learn about changes in technology that made the sessions possible.

The number of original instruments on display include a Gibson harp guitar, a guitar owned by Jimmie Rodgers, and an autoharp made for A.P. Carter’s daughter, Janette, built from wood reclaimed from her father’s old grocery store.

But, Director and Head Curator Jessica Turner says, the last thing the museum wants to do is “museumize” the living musical legacy these Bristol Sessions gave to the region.

“We want visitors to see that our musical heritage is a living tradition, and not just history,” Turner says. “Early country music is still very accessible to people, and we want our museum to help visitors relate to it.”

For this reason, the museum also includes the ultimate music “playroom,” featuring a listening station of contemporary artists’ remakes of these old-time tunes, a mixing station for visitors to recreate the Bristol Sessions songs, and a karaoke booth for guests to belt out the original lyrics — or yodels — as these artists would have done in 1927.

Photo by Malcom Wilson

Photo by Malcom Wilson

“I always thought this room would be the kids’ room, but I couldn’t have been more wrong,” says Richardson, who has caught grandmas pulling their grandkids into the karaoke booth.

This spring, the museum’s own WBCM-LP radio station and recording studio will begin broadcasting live from the 1920s building, and will feature old-time and bluegrass tunes around the clock.

The seatless Immersion Theatre exhibit presents an open dance space that invites visitors to partake in the ultimate music festival being shown on the curved screens surrounding them.

“Today, [visitors and] musicians who aren’t country music musicians are still being inspired by and learning from the artists who recorded at the Bristol Sessions,” Turner says. “We want to continue that tradition.”

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum

520 Cumberland Street
Bristol, Va. 24201
423.573.1927
www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org

Throughout the year, special events and engaging programming include live regional music, Appalshop film screenings, guest speakers and traveling exhibits.

Open daily, except Monday
Tickets range from $11-$13 with children 5 and under free

“New Harmonies” Exhibit

MARCH-SEPTEMBER

On loan from the Smithsonian, this exhibit highlights all the different musical genres, from gospel to Cajun, that have influenced the sound of American roots music. Located in the Special Exhibits Gallery on the first floor of the museum.

Corrections
Thomas Richardson has an MA in ethnomusicology and is completing a doctorate in folklore, but does not currently hold a doctorate, as was incorrectly stated in an earlier version of this article. Jessica Turner is the Director and Head Curator of the museum, but not the Executive Director. The Executive Director is Leah Ross. In an earlier version of this article, Jessica was misquoted as the Bristol Sessions were not the first recordings of country music, and the museum takes efforts to point that out. They were the first widely successful recordings of country music, but there were recordings as early as 1922. An earlier version of this article also incorrectly stated that the museum displays a guitar owned by Maybelle Carter, which it does not. The museum is 3 blocks from the Taylor-Christian Hat Company, not one block. We regret the errors.

Self-publishing: A Modern Avenue for Appalachian Authors

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by molly

By Dac Collins

SelfPub_lostandfoundapp

Self-publishing is on the rise in today’s progressive literary scene, and quite a few writers in Appalachia have foregone the traditional process of submitting their work to publishers in favor of publishing it themselves.

Julie E. Calestro-McDonald and Peggy Calestro self-published “Lost and Found in Appalachia” with the help of the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, an online service. The paperback is a personal account of their road trips through central Appalachia, and the reader is given a glimpse of the region through photographs, anecdotes and hand-drawn maps.

Randall A. Wells self-publishes “Floydiana” as a serial book on his website, randallawells.com, which has been up and running since 2013. His inspirations for “Floydiana” are the events, people, places and scenes that characterize Floyd County, Va. Wells currently has around fifty chapters and counting.

While working at the Appalachian State University bookstore in Boone, N.C., Hugh Howey self-published his science fiction novel, “Wool,” as an eBook in 2011. By 2012, the novel was on The New York Times bestseller list, and Howey was able to sell print rights to Simon & Schuster while retaining the e-book rights. Howey advocates that self-publishing can be more lucrative than the literary establishment would like writers to believe, and he has already self-published and released “The Shift Omnibus,” a prequel to “Wool.”

The Girls of Atomic City

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by molly

The Untold Story of Women Who Helped Win World War II

By Denise Kiernan
GirlsAtomicCity

Back when African Americans and Caucasian Americans couldn’t drink from the same water fountains and women were an anomaly in the workforce, a team of young women unknowingly helped enrich fuel for the world’s first atomic bomb in the hills of East Tennessee.

In this New York Times bestseller, author Denise Kiernan unravels the secrets of Oak Ridge, Tenn., the administrative headquarters of the Manhattan Project. The classified town, cloaked in secrecy, was practically built overnight to house 75,000 people by the end of World War II. Through dozens of conversations with surviving workers and residents, Kiernan reveals an astonishing history. — Review by Meredith Warfield

Read an interview with Denise Kiernan.

Appalachian Toys and Games from A to Z

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by molly

By Linda Hager Pack and Pat Banks
Appalachian-Toys-and-Games

This colorful and educational book teaches children about a simpler time when dolls were made out of corn husks and apples, and games relied more on imagination than electricity.

With the help of Pat Banks’ watercolor illustrations, Linda Hager Pack introduces some of the games that were played and the toys that were popular in nineteenth-century Appalachia. In an age when most children see a television or computer screen as their primary source of entertainment, “Appalachian Toys and Games from A to Z” will inspire young readers to get outside and play a game of Fox and Hounds or Kick the Can. — Review by Dac Collins

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by molly

SWOTE

The debut novel by Christopher Scotton is a coming-of-age story that takes familiar themes — tragedy and the quest to find healing — and explores them with the backdrop of a central Appalachian community beset by mountaintop removal coal mining.

Set in 1985 in the fictional Medgar, Ky., a richly conceived mountain hamlet populated by colorful characters, “Secret Wisdom of the Earth” traces the summer 14-year-old Kevin Gillooly spent at his mother’s childhood home in the mountains as he comes to grips with the tragic death of his younger brother. Exploring Medgar and the surrounding hills, Scotton uses prose at once elegant and approachable to weave together the stories of longtime residents, close friends and unabashed enemies, including many struggling with whether or not to abide by the bounds of tradition.

In mending his broken life, Kevin develops deep ties with some folks including his stoic grandfather, Pops, and Buzzy, an adventurous local boy with whom he becomes fast friends. Others, like Bubba Boyd, a prideful and blustering coal baron, offer powerful lessons too. The wiser respect the land. The shortsighted concentrate only on what can be taken.

“Men like Bubba Boyd think the Earth owes them a living,” Pops explains. “They take whatever wealth they can from the mountains and move on.”

Though not about environmentalism on the surface, an environmental ethic permeates the novel and gives readers perspective on the threats posed by energy extraction in Appalachia today.

At first, mountaintop removal is depicted as a pervasive but rarely-seen evil encroaching on Medgar as Bubba Boyd grabs up more and more land surrounding the town. Ultimately, however, it’s the friction created in the small community by mountaintop removal that precipitates a story of family, friendship and overcoming odds that will change Kevin’s life and the town of Medgar forever. — Review by Brian Sewell

Read an interview with Christopher Scotton

Joe Potato’s Real Life Recipes

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 - posted by molly

Tall Tales & Short Stories

By Meriwether O’Connor

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Characters bold and bright populate Meriwether O’Connor’s vivid and often humorous short stories. Rooted in rural Appalachia, these tales feature animals, humans and plants that celebrate country living while being brave — or perhaps stubborn — enough to stand unflinching in the face of hardscrabble realities.

O’Connor’s writing is frank, entertaining and imbued with a sense of magical realism. In an interview with Story Circle Book Reviews, O’Connor, who was raised in Kentucky, says that “‘Joe Potato fits into what is now called ‘Grit Lit,’ a more down-to-earth version of Southern Gothic.” A decidedly non-traditional recipe follows each tale, and, like her characters, the recipes don’t take themselves too seriously, either.

Joe Potato’s Real Life Recipes” is nominated for the Weatherford Award, and O’Connor plans to release another collection next year. — Review by Molly Moore