In our third installment of this series, we hear from Sally Brown Deskins, the exhibits and programs coordinator for WVU Libraries. Sally is an artist, writer, and curator whose work focuses on women and feminist artists.
West Virginia University Press’s new book Mountains Piled upon Mountains: Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene features nearly fifty writers from across Appalachia sharing their place-based fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry. The excerpt below is from the essay “Forest Disturbance” by Katie Fallon, who is the author of several books, has taught at West Virginia University, and now teaches in low-residency programs at West Virginia Wesleyan College and Chatham University. Mountains Piled upon Mountains, edited by Jessica Cory, is available now on our website.
Isabelle stands directly on top of the running buffalo clover (Trifolium stoloniferum), a federally endangered species. Her silver Nikes crush some of the three-leafed plants, while other sprouts tangle between her feet. The US Forest Service scientist leading our small group assures us that this clover likes disturbance—in fact, it requires disturbance to flourish—but we are nervous about obliging.Read More »
In the newly published LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia, editors Jeff Mann and Julia Watts have collected works “that give Appalachian queer voices—members of a double minority—an opportunity to be heard at a time when many people in power would prefer to silence or ignore them.” This collection, the first of its kind, gathers original and previously published fiction and poetry from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer authors from Appalachia. In this conversation, Mann and Watts take a closer look at what growing up queer in Appalachia was like for them and how their identities influenced their reading and writing.
With the annual meeting of the Appalachian Studies Association coming up March 14–17 in Asheville, NC, we wanted to provide an overview of talks and events of interest to friends of West Virginia University Press. If you can’t be in Asheville, follow along with the hashtag #AppalachAville, and have a look at our titles in Appalachian studies here.
Book exhibit: Visit us in the exhibit hall (Highsmith Student Union’s Alumni Hall) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to meet press staff and see all our latest books. If you’re pitching a project, feel free to contact Derek Krissoff (for nonfiction) or Abby Freeland (for fiction) ahead of the conference to ask about meeting. Email addresses are on the WVU Press website.
Appalachian Reckoning event: Volume editors and contributors to Appalachian Reckoning, our new set of responses to Hillbilly Elegy, will read at Malaprop’s Bookstore in downtown Asheville on Saturday, March 16, at 7PM. More info here.Read More »
Matthew Ferrence is department chair and associate professor of English at Allegheny College, and the author of the memoir Appalachia North (WVU Press, 2019) and All-American Redneck: Variations on an Icon, from James Fenimore Cooper to the Dixie Chicks. He talked with Margo Orlando Littell, author of the Appalachian novel Each Vagabond by Name, about his memoir. The following is an edited selection of the conversation.
Bonnie Stewart, an award-winning journalist and former professor of journalism at West Virginia University, is the editorial adviser for Daily Titan, California State University, Fullerton’s student newspaper. While at WVU, she spent five years researching and writing No.9: The 1968 Farmington Coal Mine Disaster, an investigative book about the mining disaster that killed seventy-eight men at a Consolidation Coal Company mine on November 20, 1968. In 2014, the miners’ families sued the coal company, which subpoenaed Stewart for unpublished interviews. Claiming reporter’s privilege under the First Amendment, she fought the subpoena in federal court and won.
Fifty years have passed since seventy-eight coal miners died underground in the Consolidation Coal No. 9 mine in Farmington, West Virginia. Some good came from that tragedy. The deaths moved Congress to pass the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, which is credited with saving untold numbers of miners. Although that has given the families of the seventy-eight dead some comfort, it has not erased what happened that cold November day in 1968 or why it happened.
Tom Hansell’s book After Coal: Stories of Survival in Appalachia and Wales will be published by WVU Press on November 1. In this opinion piece drawn from his research for the book, Hansell reacts to President Trump’s plan to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, and argues that Appalachia can, drawing on lessons from other parts of the world, work toward a post-coal future.
Last week President Trump traveled to West Virginia to announce his intention to scrap the Clean Power Plan, sounding a death knell for federal regulations on carbon emissions. While it’s undeniable that environmental regulations have a negative impact on coal jobs, the President ignores the fact that in states like West Virginia, coal and natural resources comprise only 3 percent of the state economy, according to a recent West Virginia College of Business report.Read More »
Never Justice, Never Peace: Mother Jones and the Miner Rebellion at Paint and Cabin Creeks, by Lon Kelly Savage and Ginny Savage Ayers, will be published by WVU Press on September 1. In this post, adapted from his introduction to the book, historian Lou Martin (who received his PhD from West Virginia University) talks about the context for the strike, and argues for the relevance of the West Virginia Mine Wars during our own period of labor activism and political contest.
Paint Creek. Cabin Creek. Holly Grove. Cesco Estep. Mucklow. Frank Keeney. Mother Jones. Solidarity Forever. The places and the people of the Paint Creek–Cabin Creek Strike are buried deep in the American memory of the labor movement and the working-class struggle for rights and justice. The strike occurred in the “age of industrial violence,” before there were laws to govern labor relations, and for many it revealed the darkest depths of capitalism in America but also the indomitable spirit of workers organized in the face of great odds. Despite its tragic loss of life, despite its importance in the history of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), and despite being a cause célèbre among the labor activists of the era, this conflict in the heart of the Appalachian coalfields remains little known today except among historians and the coal mining families of southern West Virginia.Read More »
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.
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.