Valerie Nieman is a professor of English at North Carolina A&T State University. A former journalist and farmer in West Virginia, she is the author of three novels, as well as collections of poetry and short fiction. She is a graduate of West Virginia University, and she received an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. To the Bones, her latest novel, is now available.
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time digging: century-old crockery pulled up from dumps behind fallen-in houses, jack-in-the-pulpit and native azalea dug out of the woods and toted home, stones pried out of hillsides. (That last led to a broken ankle, when I stepped in the hole I’d created earlier.) My bedroom was adorned with trilobites, the skulls of wild creatures, slab-sided patent medicine bottles.
Two of West Virginia University Press’s books won awards from international scholarly societies this spring. The Politics of Listsreceived the Julian Minghi Distinguished Book Award from the Political Geography Group of the American Association of Geographers, and The Argument about Things in the 1980s received the Arthur Miller Institute First Book Award from the British Association for American Studies. Congratulations to authors James Tyner and Tim Jelfs.
Greg Bottoms is “one of the most innovative and intriguing nonfiction writers at work,” according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power. Bottoms’s latest book, Lowest White Boy—a study of growing up white and working class in Tidewater, Virginia, during school desegregation in the 1970s—is new in WVU Press’s In Place series. Here Bottoms talks with Jeremy Wang-Iverson.
What inspired you to write about racism from your boyhood experience?
I’ve written a lot about the South and Virginia, and I’ve touched on racism many times and in different ways in other books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’ve thought about writing directly about white racism for a long time because it was so prominent in my childhood personal geography. But it is our political climate of rising racism and the pushing back on civil rights of all kinds that really made this feel urgent to me. Jeff Sessions was AG. Steve Bannon developed core ideas for the Republican candidate, now president. Stephen Miller is in the White House. Racism is the subtext and often the text of Trump’s words. These men are white supremacist, first and foremost, and a solid minority of our country supports their ideas with votes. White ethno-nationalism is now a fundamental pillar of one of our two major American political parties and has a powerful media ecosystem that magnifies these views. I’m describing an objective, factual reality.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.
At West Virginia University Press we publish books in our areas of specialization by authors around the world, including WVU faculty like Rosemary Hathaway and Travis Stimeling, both of whom have written for our blog. Other members of the WVU community, of course, work with different publishers. With this post we inaugurate a new feature spotlighting authors at the university who publish with other houses—part of our effort to serve as a forum for all things book- and publishing-related at West Virginia University.
After a recent conversation with Derek Krissoff, director of WVU Press, he suggested I compose a short blog post about my experience obtaining a contract with SAGE Publications. He thought other faculty might find value in in my story. So here it goes . . .Read More »
Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy is reviewed by Dwight Garner in the New York Times. He calls it “the most sustained pushback to Vance’s book . . . thus far,” and “a volley of intellectual buckshot from high up alongside the hollow.” Robert Gipe, a contributor to the volume, also appears in the Times with his op-ed piece “Appalachia Is More Diverse Than You Think.” This much-talked-about book receives additionalreviews in the Daily Yonder and Chapter 16 from Humanities Tennessee, and Letitia Montgomery-Rodgers interviews the volume editors for Foreword Reviews. The title’s Morgantown launch event is available to view in its entirety thanks to the WVU College of Law.
Michael Clay Carey’sThe News Untoldreceived the Weatherford Award for the year’s best nonfiction book about Appalachia from Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association. Tom Hansell’s After Coal was a runner-up. WVU Press is fortunate to have received two Weatherford Awards in the last three years, and to have had four finalists.
Foreword Reviews calls LGBTQ Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia “an immersive exploration of queer life within the confines of a conservative American subculture.” Editors Jeff Mann and Julia Watts will join contributors to the volume for a launch event at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC, on April 22.
Also in Foreword Reviews, Cassandra Kircher’s Far Flung is praised as a collection of “intimate and moving essays on nature, family, and adventures in the wild.”Read More »
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 »
In an Associated Press piece run by the Washington Post and others, Russell Contreras calls Matthew Ferrence’s Appalachia North “a lyrical homage to a region often misunderstood and overlooked,” saying “Ferrence’s engulfing prose brings to life an Appalachia north of the Mason-Dixon line.” The Indiana (PA) Gazette profiles the book in anticipation of Ferrence’s appearance at Indiana University of Pennsylvania on March 20.
Publishers WeeklycallsAppalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy an “impassioned collection of Appalachian regional art, essays, and poetry,” commending the volume for demonstrating that, despite stereotypes, “resilience, hope, and belonging are in Appalachia, too.” The book is also featured in the Pittsburgh Current and reviewed in the Bowling Green Daily News, which says: “If you read Hillbilly Elegy, you definitely need to pick up a copy of Appalachian Reckoning.” Editors Meredith McCarroll and Anthony Harkins will join contributors to the volume for a launch event at West Virginia University on February 25.
BooklistpraisesCapitalist Pigs, comparing it to one of the foundational texts of environmental history: “In the vein of William Cronon’s Nature’s Metropolis, this is a meaty, accessible, and clear-eyed agricultural history.”Read More »
In the second installment of our Booktimist series, we hear from collaborators across the world of books.
Penny Pugh is head of research services at the WVU Libraries and a member of WVU Press’s editorial board.
It’s been my pleasure to serve on the WVU Press board for several years and to see it grow and flourish under the leadership of two talented directors. The work of a board member is indeed a pleasure. The board approves all new books before they’re published, and as part of the evaluation members read a portion of the work under consideration as well as a summary and reports from external reviewers. These glimpses into potential new titles are fascinating. After reviewing the titles, members of the board provide additional insights from our various disciplines and vote on acceptance of the title. The board also advises the director on matters of policy and practice and generally guards the reputation of the press.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.