Appalachia North: A conversation with Matthew Ferrence

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.

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Midwinter roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

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In a starred review, Kirkus calls Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy “a welcome and valuable resource for anyone studying or writing about this much-maligned region,” singling out for praise the volume’s “nuanced considerations of race, sexuality, and drug use.” The title also earns a starred review from Foreword, which calls it “stunning in its intellectual and creative riches.” Humanities Tennessee excerpts Robert Gipe’s “How Appalachian I Am,” an essay from the collection, in its magazine Chapter 16. 

Sharon Harris’s “masterful” Rebecca Harding Davis: A Life among Writers has been named an outstanding title for 2018 by Choice, a publication of the American Library Association. The annual list reflects the best scholarly titles reviewed by Choice, and recognizes “outstanding works for their excellence in presentation and scholarship.”Read More »

Pink pork and “the housewife’s most wholesome sink”: Waste and taste in American history

J. L. Anderson’s Capitalist Pigs: Pigs, Pork, and Power in American History is on its way to bookstores and available now from our website and online retailers. A contribution to WVU’s publishing program in environment, agriculture, and food politics, the book is—according to Mark Essig, author of Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig—“the story of how pigs made America, and how America remade the pig.” In this piece drawn from his research for the book, Anderson looks at how consumer preferences and waste practices have intersected with health concerns about pork over the course of US history.

Fifteen or so years ago a waiter at a fashionable restaurant asked how I would like my pork loin cooked. “I beg your pardon?” I replied. The server clarified that I could have it prepared rare, medium, or well-done. Of course I knew about the different temperatures for preparing and serving meat. The problem was that for me, born in the 1960s, the very question was absurd. Pork was cooked until done or it wasn’t. People who grew up in my era knew that consuming rare pork was a health risk.Read More »

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

The Chronicle of Higher Education showcases “Five Teaching Tips from How Humans Learn,” Joshua Eyler’s new book in our series Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. The book also makes the 2018 notable list from the Chicago Tribune, and is featured (for a third time!) in Inside Higher Ed, which calls it “a wonderful tool for reflection on one’s own teaching practice.” Eyler is interviewed on Houston’s NPR station, as well as the New Books Network and Teaching in Higher Ed podcasts.

In other news from our higher education program, Inside Higher Ed interviews Thomas Tobin and Kirsten Behling about their book Reach Everyone, Teach Everyone, and the journal Reflective Teaching calls Natasha Haugnes, Hoag Holmgren, and Martin Springborg’s Meaningful Grading “an important read for all faculty.”

Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath is included among “Five Stellar Debut Story Collections” in Foreword Reviews. Read an interview with Sypolt on Leslie Pietrzyk’s Work-in-Progress blog.

On BackStory radio, Ed Ayers, recipient of the National Humanities Medal, recommends our book Marked, Unmarked, Remembered as a holiday gift. “Right where we’re standing now, something else happened. This book helps us see that in a way that no other book I’ve read has.”Read More »

“Appalachia loves stories”: A conversation with Travis Stimeling

Stimeling photosTravis Stimeling is associate professor of music history at West Virginia University and a series editor and author with WVU Press. Here he talks with Jacob Kopcienski, a lecturer in the WVU School of Music. Don’t miss Travis and musical guests at Taylor Books in Charleston, WV, on December 19.

JK: What inspired your interest and scholarly engagement with Appalachian music and culture?

TS: I grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia, in Upshur County, about an hour and change south of Morgantown. Toward the end of elementary school, we started going to a Methodist church. In our neighborhood you were either down in the holler or up on the ridge, and church was up on the ridge. We shared the minister with three other churches, so we only got a preacher on the first and third Sundays of the month. Second and fourth Sundays were lay speakers and, in months with five Sundays, the preacher got the last Sunday off. On those fifth Sundays, all four churches got together in the evening for a big sing-in. So, from the time I was nine to eleven years old, I was singing gospel music with my mom, and singing in the church choir. Mom and I were a little duo that was a lot of fun. I would sing the harmony and she would sing the lead. When my voice changed, we flipped parts.Read More »

Seeing West Virginia in the world: A year-end message

If 2017 was a year of firsts for West Virginia University Press, then 2018 has been one of reach—a year in which our books and authors were in particularly broad circulation, helping propel outward the reputation of the university, state, and region in encounters from Portland to New Orleans and New York to Munich. We’re proud of our work with partners in the state’s growing literary and cultural network, like Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, Labor Heritage Week in Wheeling, and the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston. In our end-of-year message, though, we start by looking further afield.

LA.jpgWest Virginia University Press was big in Southern California this year: we were reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books three times and made our first appearance in Pacific Standard; author Michael Adamson talked about his book in our series Energy and Society at the Huntington Library in San Marino; and a visit to Skylight Books yielded sightings of a half dozen of our titles (including one coauthored by WVU musicologist Travis Stimeling). “When I go into a bookstore and see the words ‘West Virginia University Press’ on a spine next to logos from the University of Minnesota and Oxford University,” said director Derek Krissoff, “it says something about the community WVU is part of. If I’m far from home and the book happens to be by a WVU faculty member, all the better.”Read More »

In memoriam: The 1968 Farmington Mine Disaster

Photo by Bob Campione

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.

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

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The rollout for Tom Hansell’s After Coal continues with a review and excerpt in the Daily Yonder, also picked up by the Huffington Post and 100 Days in Appalachia. It’s praised as “a forward-looking book” that “should be on the reading lists of any communities that wonder ‘what do we do now?'” Another portion of After Coal is excerpted in Pacific Standard, our first appearance in the magazine. Hansell will read from his book at Busboys and Poets in Washington, DC, on November 29.

In response to author J.D. Vance’s visit to Charlotte, NC, Anthony Harkins and Meredith McCarroll, coeditors of our forthcoming Appalachian Reckoning, appear on NPR station WFAE to “argue that the ‘hillbilly culture’ Vance depicts is actually much more diverse, complex, and nuanced” than it’s made to sound in Hillbilly Elegy.

New Pages includes Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath in its October roundup of new and noteworthy titles from independent publishers. Sypolt is interviewed on Shelf Life, from City Books in Pittsburgh, and will appear in cities across West Virginia and Kentucky in November.Read More »

WVU Press at the West Virginia Book Festival

We look forward to seeing book buyers and other friends at this year’s West Virginia Book Festival, October 26–27 at the Charleston Civic Center. Find us in the festival marketplace, and look for these new titles and special events featuring WVU authors.

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Meredith Sue Willis, author of Their Houses, will lead a writing workshop on October 26 at 10AM in rooms 202–204. Foreword Reviews praises her new novel as “a surprisingly tender portrait of the bonds that keep friends and families afloat.”Read More »

Mid-fall roundup: Reviews, media attention, and author events

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Our forthcoming After Coal is reviewed in Publishers Weekly, which calls it an “optimistic” and “visually appealing” book about “community-building efforts by locals” in mining communities in Appalachia and across the Atlantic. Author Tom Hansell talks with the Trillbilly Worker’s Party podcast, and his After Coal project—an ongoing exchange between Appalachia and Wales that includes our book and a documentary film—makes an appearance on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Inside Appalachia. We’ll launch After Coal on October 14 at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville.

In Booklist, Natalie Sypolt’s The Sound of Holding Your Breath is described as a “bold collection” and praised for its “masterful storytelling.” Sypolt launches her book in Pittsburgh, Rivesville, and Charleston in October.Read More »