The African American experience in Appalachia: Books, events, and articles from WVU Press

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Appalachia tends, for a variety of complex reasons, to be conflated with whiteness, and especially poor whiteness. But the region has a significant nonwhite presence and tradition — one celebrated at this parade commemorating John Brown’s raid in Charles Town, West Virginia (from our Marked, Unmarked, Remembered), and an important aspect of WVU Press’s overall publishing program. With Black History Month starting next week, it seemed like a good time to look at several books, events, and articles from the press that explore Appalachia’s diversity, and particularly its African American heritage.Read More »

“Medicine teaches three skills of high value to a writer”: Jacob Appel on The Amazing Mr. Morality


Jacob Appel is a physician, attorney, and bioethicist in New York City, where he teaches at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. His story collection The Amazing Mr. Morality will be published by WVU Press in February.

One of my favorite jokes relates the story of an impious rabbi who goes golfing on a Jewish Holy Day and is punished by God with a perfect score.  In the punchline, God asks the angels, “But who can he tell?”  My job, as an emergency room psychiatrist and hospital-based bioethicist, raises similar challenges:  I hear the most amazing, unlikely, compelling stories all day long—but the magic often lurks in the details, and both canons of medical ethics and federal law prevent me from sharing these stories with others.  (For fifty years beyond the death of the patient, at least; check back with me at the turn of the next century.)  So if I cannot write about my professional experiences, even in the most oblique or veiled manner, how does being a psychiatrist or ethicist influence my writing?Read More »

Midwinter roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events


The Los Angeles Review of Books calls Marked, Unmarked, Rememberedbrilliant and memorable,” and the book also makes BuzzFeed’s year-end list of “21 of the Most Incredible Photo Books from 2017.” Look for authors Andrew and Alex Lichtenstein at the Newberry Library in Chicago on March 8 and the Virginia Festival of the Book on March 21.

Gwynn Dujardin, Jim Lang, and John Staunton are interviewed in Inside Higher Ed about their book Teaching the Literature Survey Course, new in our series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Unruly Creatures by Jennifer Caloyeras makes Bustle’s year-end list of “13 Books By and About Women That You Might Have Missed In 2017—But Shouldn’t.” It’s “a can’t-miss collection for readers who love a blend of humor, magical realism, and surrealism.” The author is interviewed in Heavy Feather Review.Read More »

Hidden headlines: What journalists get wrong about poverty

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Michael Clay Carey is author of The News Untold: Community Journalism and the Failure to Confront Poverty in Appalachia, published by WVU Press in November. Carey worked as a journalist for ten years at newspapers such as Nashville’s The Tennessean and USA Today. He is assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Samford University in Birmingham. Find him on Twitter: @byClayCarey

BOOKTIMIST: What drew you to this topic?   

Carey: I’ve always been interested in the roles local newspapers play in communities, especially rural communities. A lot of people who write about journalism tend to focus their attention on large national news organizations in big cities, because they’re seen as more glamorous institutions. But people in small towns and underserved communities have news needs as well, and I wanted to write about the organizations that work to fill those needs.Read More »

Shallow learning? The promises and perils of the literature survey course


James M. Lang edits WVU Press’s series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and is also coeditor of the latest series book, Teaching the Literature Survey CourseWith a new semester and the annual meeting of the Modern Language Association both on the near horizon, Jim agreed to share a version of the book’s introduction.

When I was an undergraduate in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I took the three literature survey courses that were required of all English majors at my university, and that remain a staple feature of English majors today: two surveys of British literature, divided somewhere between the Restoration and Romantic periods, and one survey of American literature. All proceeded as usual throughout the American and early British surveys, but early in the semester some tragedy befell the professor of the second half of the British literature survey, and the university had to scramble to find a replacement for him to allow the course to continue. The faculty member who took over the course was a political scientist. As an undergraduate, I had no glimpse into whatever internal processes led to this outcome, which now strikes me as exceedingly strange, especially given that this was a moderate-sized research university, which likely had plenty of graduate students and adjuncts on the English Department roster already.Read More »

Some notes on book titles


Andrew Berzanskis is an editor-at-large for the press. Here, he offers an inside look at the acquisitions process. Find him on Twitter: @aberzanskis

If you can’t remember the name of your book without seeing it in writing, the title is too long.

When you explain the pun in your proposed book title, you have already made two mistakes.

Your book’s audience will only be as broad as the most narrow word in the title. Read More »

“Documents like this are objects of resistance”: Emily Hilliard on Folk Songs from the West Virginia Hills, by Patrick Ward Gainer

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Patrick Ward Gainer taught in WVU’s English department for many years. His Witches, Ghosts, and Signs has long been an important part of our publishing program and is now joined by a new edition of Folk Songs from the West Virginia Hills, a major work of folklore poised to reach a new generation of readers. Our edition – part of the Sounding Appalachia series, edited by Travis Stimeling – is introduced by Emily Hilliard, West Virginia’s state folklorist. Here we share an enhanced digital version of her foreword to the book.

When I first interviewed 89-year-old ballad singer Phyllis Marks at her Gilmer County home, I asked her how she started performing her songs and stories. She told me about the first time she met Dr. Patrick Gainer, when he was looking for local performers for the first West Virginia State Folk Festival:Read More »