New Year’s roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies continues to play a prominent role in end-of-year book coverage, earning mentions in the New York Times critics’ roundup of 2020 (“I keep loaning out copies of Deesha Philyaw’s The Secret Lives of Church Ladies and having to order replacements”) and on NPR’s Code Switch episode on the year in books. It lands on best-of-the-year lists from the Paris Review, Buzzfeed, Ms. Magazine, Electric Lit, the Undefeated, Writer’s Bone, Stacks, Religion News Service, Hour Detroit, and the Chicago Review of Books (which calls it “a new classic”), and is judged “charming and entertaining” in the Kenyon Review. Philyaw appears on WTAE television in Pittsburgh, in a PEN America Q&A, at the Rumpus, and in LitHub, where she’s interviewed by Mitchell Kaplan of Miami’s Books & Books. She is named literary Person of the Year by Pittsburgh City Paper.

In the first published review of Jim Lewis’s Ghosts of New York, Kirkus Reviews finds the novel “reads like a striking literary version of the movie My Dinner with Andre,” with writing that is “beautiful, crisp, and keen-eyed.”

Larry Thacker’s Working It off in Labor County is called “a rollicking portrayal of small-town Kentucky life,” in Publishers Weekly, which says it is “unified by strong narrative drive and well-crafted prose.”

Foreword Reviews suggests that Chuck Keeney’s The Road to Blair Mountain “articulates a thoughtful alternative vision for Appalachia’s future—one that supports its heritage of coal mining and labor history and also seeks a more sustainable, diverse, and decentralized economy.”

At The Millions, Natalie Bakopoulos’s “Year in Reading” includes Joanna Eleftheriou’s “exceptional” This Way Back, a book with “a wonderful narrative urgency and arc.”

WVU Press’s Cincinnati event featuring contributors to Appalachian Reckoning (cohosted with Downbound Books and the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition) receives coverage on Cincinnati Public Radio and in the Columbus Dispatch. The book is featured on the Reading Women podcast and is (along with our LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia) hailed by Book Riot as an alternative to Hillbilly Elegy. Volume coeditor Anthony Harkins is interviewed in Salon.

Bluegrass Ambassadors, new in Travis Stimeling’s series Sounding Appalachia, is written up in Bluegrass Today.

The journal Hispania praises Marcus Wood’s The Black Butterfly: “A literature or history class on the slave narrative or abolition needs this book.”

And in higher education news, Susan D. Blum, editor of our book Ungrading, appears on the Beyond the Curriculum podcast.

That’s a wrap on 2020! Check back at our calendar for news of spring launch events, and if you missed author readings this fall and early winter, have a look at recorded programming from Downbound Books, Greenlight Books, and the National Book Foundation.

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