Early summer roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

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In the Los Angeles Review of Books, Maggie Messitt has an essay responding to our edition of Muriel Rukeyser’s The Book of the Dead. She writes: ”The Book of the Dead is documentary poetry . . . at its most effective. The collection builds a narrative that carries through each poem, leading us into a disaster impossible to shake, illustrating the fight for accountability, and exposing the awful truth.”

Nancy Abrams’s The Climb from Salt Lick receives two major pieces of media attention. Booklist calls it “a reverse Hillbilly Elegy, the story of a young woman who flummoxes her family back in St. Louis by settling in remote, rural West Virginia, giving us a glimpse into hardscrabble living, small-town characters, and a slice of history.” And Chicago Reader says the author “paints a vivid picture of what it was like to make her way in an unfamiliar territory during a turbulent time.” Abrams’s photographs, including some from the book, are on exhibit at the Rare Nest Gallery in Chicago.

Marked, Unmarked, Remembered—a book that “seeks to shed light on events that have been left out of the national story, even as these issues continue to define political struggles today”—is also featured in Chicago Reader, in conjunction with the authors’ appearance at the Chicago Humanities Festival.Read More »

Lessons from Welsh women: An excerpt from Tom Hansell’s After Coal

Tom Hansell’s After Coal will be published by WVU Press in November. The book traces a long-term exchange between mining communities in Appalachia and Wales, looking at how resonances between these regions—often depicted as victims of globalization—can be a source of strength. As Hansell puts it: “Taken at face value, international commerce seems to erode community self-determination, but can international connections also support local control?” Read More »

Spring roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

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Literary Hub features suggested reading to help explain and contextualize the West Virginia teachers’ strike, including Matewan Before the Massacre, Working Class Radicals, and The Book of the Dead, all from WVU Press.

Three WVU Press titles—Monsters in Appalachia, The Industrialist and the Mountaineer, and The Rebel in the Red Jeepwere among the finalists for the Weatherford Award, given by the Appalachian Studies Association and Berea College for best Appalachian book of the year.Read More »

Guilt by omission: A photojournalist recounts an untold story

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Earl Groves, the owner-operator of a steam-driven sawmill in Deep Hollow, West Virginia.

Nancy L. Abrams began her journalism career in Terra Alta, West Virginia, where she was managing editor of The Preston County News, a job she held for a decade. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Nancy trained as a photojournalist. She holds an MFA in creative writing-nonfiction from The New School. Out now, The Climb from Salt Lick: A Memoir of Appalachia recounts her time as a small-town reporter in West Virginia.

I remember my first trip to see Earl Groves. I had been told about his sawmill, powered by a steam engine. A relic from the past located in a place called Deep Hollow. The narrow gravel road curled along a creek colored bright orange by acid mine drainage. Great heaps of coal waste–gob piles–loomed overhead. Sunlight could barely breach the sharp cleft between the hills. The sawmill was a brown skeleton in the ruined landscape.

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The Argument about Things in the 1980s: A Cultural Playlist

Tim Jelfs is assistant professor of American studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and the author of The Argument about Things in the 1980s: Goods and Garbage in an Age of Neoliberalism—a contribution to WVU Press’s publishing programs in environmental humanities and studies of US culture. Here he talks about eight cultural moments that inform his book.

Jimmy Carter’s Crisis of Confidence Speech, July 15, 1979

When did the 1980s begin? One of the arguments The Argument about Things in the 1980s makes is that such a simple question is quite hard to answer. If it’s worthwhile—as I think it is—to frame the 1980s as part of a longer “age of neoliberalism,” it’s tricky to pinpoint the exact origins of that era.

But something certainly happened in the 1970s, and Carter’s famous speech is an example of it: the intensification of a centuries-old argument about things in American life, in which Americans debate the proper place of material things in their existence. It’s as old as the Puritans—older, in fact—and Carter’s speech is a great illustration of what one tradition within it can look and sound like.Read More »

Conference preview: American Association of Geographers (AAG), 2018

We’re excited to exhibit books and meet authors at the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG) in New Orleans April 11-13. Geography is an important and growing scholarly area for WVU Press—one that draws on the strength of the university’s extraordinary geography department and connects to our broader publishing program in areas like Appalachian studies and studies of energy and environment. If you plan to be in New Orleans we hope you’ll visit us in booth 604, which we’re sharing with our colleagues in WVU’s department of geography.Read More »

The persistence of books in an age of content: A conversation

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In recognition of West Virginia University’s long-form scholarship celebration, we’re turning the blog’s camera around for an interview with Derek Krissoff, director of West Virginia University Press, in conversation with Ryan Claycomb, interim director of the WVU Humanities Center. 

RC: Derek, at this transitional moment in the publishing industry, how would you characterize the work of university presses?

DK: I would say, without qualification, irony, or diffidence, that this is a golden age for books and for university presses. There are more books, more bookstores, more authors, more communities of readers, more publishers in general, and more university presses specifically than ever before.

Moreover, while presses are experimenting with new business models and new methods of disseminating information, our recent history has been characterized by continuity far more than disruption. At most university presses, eighty to ninety percent of sales continue to come from print, while the upstart open access model, heralded in some quarters as our inevitable future, involves something like one percent of new scholarly titles. The substance of university press books—from Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century to Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression—is more adventurous than ever. Their form, however, is essentially unchanged.Read More »

The AWP bookfair: A visual tour

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The bookfair at AWP.

Abby Freeland is the sales and marketing director at West Virginia University Press, where she also acquires fiction. She recently represented WVU Press at AWP’s annual conference, where she was an exhibitor at the bookfair.

Every year, writers from around the world gather at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference to talk—and maybe gossip, if only a little—about books, writers, writing, and everything in between.Read More »

Hope and contradictions in Appalachia

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WVU student Tristan Dennis warms up before a concert at Washington Lands Elementary School, Marshall County, WV. Credit: Raymond Thompson.

Travis Stimeling is an associate professor of music history at West Virginia University, a series editor and author with WVU Press, and a member of the WVU Humanities Center advisory board. He was instrumental in helping bring Elizabeth Catte, the press’s new editor at large, to WVU for this week’s talk cosponsored with the humanities center and the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas. Here he responds to Catte’s presentation.

Earlier this week, WVU Press’s new editor at large Elizabeth Catte visited Morgantown to participate in WVU’s Festival of Ideas and to serve as a much-needed counterpoint to Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance, who spoke at the university on February 21. Vance’s talk reinforced familiar negative stereotypes about Appalachia at nearly every turn—we’re deliberately ignorant, too lazy to work, and too dependent on government assistance to want to do anything to take ownership over our lives—and blamed “environmental” and “cultural” factors for the region’s problems. On the other hand, Catte—who holds a Ph.D. in public history from Middle Tennessee State University—argued that these negative stereotypes have often been deployed by people who did not always have the best interest of Appalachians at heart, including missionaries, extractive industry leaders, politicians, and even eugenicists.

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Late winter roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls The Book of the Dead an “innovative, gorgeous, and deeply moving” work that “has lost none of its power—and, in fact, has gained resonance.” Catherine Venable Moore’s recent tour in support of the book received attention in Pittsburgh City Paper and the Wheeling Intelligencer. Her panel discussion with West Virginia University faculty was the inaugural event from the WVU Humanities Center.

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Booklist, in another starred review, says Todd Synder’s 12 Rounds in Lo’s Gym “is a very special book, both in its focus on one man who did work that mattered and in its portrayal of a distressed region whose economy is based on a dying industry.” Snyder is touring West Virginia, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, and Missouri in support of the book.Read More »