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Listen Here

Women Writing in Appalachia

edited by Sandra L. Ballard and Patricia L. Hudson

Publication Year: 2013

Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia is a landmark anthology that brings together the work of 105 Appalachian women writers, including Dorothy Allison, Harriette Simpson Arnow, Annie Dillard, Nikki Giovanni, Denise Giardina, Barbara Kingsolver, Jayne Anne Phillips, Janice Holt Giles, George Ella Lyon, Sharyn McCrumb, and Lee Smith. Editors Sandra L. Ballard and Patricia L. Hudson offer a diverse sampling of time periods and genres, established authors and emerging voices. From regional favorites to national bestsellers, this unprecedented gathering of Appalachian voices displays the remarkable talent of the region's women writers who've made their mark at home and across the globe.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-xvii

Chronology of Works

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pp. xix-xxviii


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pp. xxix-xxx

About the Editors

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pp. xxxi-xxxii

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pp. 1-5

The 105 writers in this collection are women who have spent their writing lives saying what they want to; the goal of this anthology is to ensure that more people have the opportunity to listen. As a group, these writers have been relegated to the fringes of the American literary community, largely because their "place"-Appalachia-continues to be viewed as outside the...

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Sheila Kay Adams

Sheila Kay Adams is a seventh-generation ballad singer who has participated in the tradition of learning and singing English, Irish, and Scottish ballads from her ancestors who arrived in North Carolina in the late 1700s. Adams and her family live in Madison County, North Carolina, where she was born. She has three children and is passing the ballad traditions to them. Her pri ...

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The Easter Frock, from Come Go Home With Me

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pp. 8-9

Bertha Franklin used to love to sit on her porch and tell me stories about what Sodom was like back when she was a girl. I was always spellbound. Bertha was a great storyteller, and she was the same age as my mother. Her stories formed a window for me, a window I could look through back into the times of my mother as a young girl and young woman...

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Dorothy Allison

Born in Greenville, South Carolina, Dorothy Allison began to receive recognition for her work as a poet and short story writer in the 1980s. Her first collection of stories, Trash, published by Firebrand Books in 1988, won the Lambda Literary Awards for Best Small Press Book and Best Lesbian Book...

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from Bastard Out of Carolina

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pp. 12-16

I've been called Bone all my life, but my name's Ruth Anne. I was named for and by my oldest aunt-Aunt Ruth. My mama didn't have much to say about it, since strictly speaking, she wasn't there. Mama and a carful of my aunts and uncles had been going out to the airport to meet one of the cousins who was on his way back from playing soldier. Aunt Alma, Aunt Ruth, ...

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Lisa Alther

Novelist Lisa (pronounced "LIE-za") Reed Alther was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, and spent her childhood there. She left the region to attend Wellesley College, graduating in 1966 with a B.A. That same year, she married Richard Alther, a painter; the couple had a daughter, Sara, and later divorced. Alther has lived most of her adult life in New England; she pres ...

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from Five Minutes in Heaven

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pp. 19-21

"So if you keep your knees together tight, girls, and smile up at your date while you swing your legs under the dashboard, you can get into any sports car, no matter how small, without displaying all your worldly treasures." Miss Melrose was demonstrating her technique in her desk chair as she talked...

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Maggie Anderson

Maggie Anderson inherited Appalachian connections from both sides of her family. Her mother's family was from Jefferson, Pennsylvania, on the West Virginia border near Morgantown; her father's family was from Preston County, West Virginia. The only child of teachers, Anderson grew up around aunts and uncles who worked in mines, mills, and on the railroad...


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pp. 23-24

Long Story

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pp. 25-26

Sonnet for Her Labor

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pp. 27-61

A Place with Promise

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pp. 28-29

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Anne W. Armstrong

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Anne Wetzell Armstrong was the daughter of Lorinda Snyder Wetzell and Henry B. Wetzell. She moved with her family to Knoxville, Tennessee, when she was a girl. Having spent part of her youth as her father's hiking partner in the mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky, she returned to these mountains throughout her...

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from This Day and Time

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pp. 32-35

k she lay beside Enoch [Ivy's son] on the pallet, huddled close to him for warmth, Ivy tried to stop thinking, but the old question was again hammering in her brain: "Why did Jim leave me? Oh, Lord God, why did he do me that -a-way?"...

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Harriette Simpson Arnow

Harriette Simpson Arnow, the second oldest child of six, grew up in the south-central Kentucky town of Burnside, located on the South Fork of the Cumberland River. Her mother, Molly Denney Simpson, and her father, Elias Simpson, had both been schoolteachers before their marriage, and her...

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from Hunter's Horn

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pp. 38-39

By December, Milly was slow in all her movements, her days long reaches of time that somehow must be got through, with work done in spite of backache and toothache, puffed feet and hands, and the bigness of her body that seemed to hinder her in all things, be it sweeping under the stove or squatting to milk Betsey. But no matter how slowly she might walk to the ...

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from Seedtime on the Cumberland

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pp. 40-41

Times and places were mingled in my head; the past was part of the present, close as the red cedar water bucket in the kitchen, or the big cherry press put together with pegs, or the parched corn a grandmother now and then made for us. This was the same as the parched corn from the old days, or the cornmeal mush we sometimes ate, no different at all from the mush...

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The First Ride

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pp. 42-46

She heard her mother's voice hoarse, with fright pressing it into a flat stream of sound, "You'll have to hurry." And then her husband's call, "I've fin'ly got him saddled," while Rebel the big gray stallion neighed and pawed by the porch steps as if he too knew the joy of the long wild ride that lay...

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Sylvia Trent Auxier

Sylvia Trent Auxier was the eldest of sixteen children born to Dollie Blaine May Trent and T.J. Trent. She grew up in Pike County, Kentucky, attending a one-room log school. She went on to Pikeville College Academy, where she graduated at the head of her class...


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pp. 49-85

When Grandmother Wept

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pp. 49-87

Cicada's Song

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pp. 50-88

Someday in a Wood

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pp. 51-89

The Stair

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pp. 51-90

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Marilou Awiakta

A seventh-generation Appalachian native who was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, Marilou Awiakta grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, with a unique heritage that places her mountain and Cherokee roots in the context of the birthplace of atomic energy. Her earliest experiences, she explains, helped...

Women Die Like Trees

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pp. 54-93

When Earth Becomes an "It"

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pp. 54-96

Anorexia Bulimia Speaks from the Grave

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pp. 55-98

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A Time to Reweave, from Selu

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pp. 56-100

The 1990s will be the decisive decade, when humanity will either call Earth "Mother" again or perish. To survive, we must reconnect the Web of Life. People of reverent spirit everywhere are saying it: scientists, theologians, educators, artists, poets, sociologists, the man and woman next door, the kindergarten child who, when asked his greatest wish, said...

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A Time to Study Law, from Selu

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pp. 57-60

As women work for the good of our people and move into positions where we help make governing policies, it is useful and strengthening to study the Creator's laws and precedents for their application. Most people now call these laws "natural." Native people have traditionally called them "sacred." In either case, the laws are immutable and inexorable. And they are...

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Out of Ashes Peace Will Rise

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pp. 61-106

...energies of two genders. The more America is in harmony with the Creator's You and I are sisters but different. Yet we have common ground in an old saying, "There are many paths up the mountain." If we take the moun tain to be Womanspirit rooted in the sacred, there is honor to your path and honor to mine. We are one in our calling to bring Womanspirit into balance ...

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Artie Ann Bates

Eastern Kentuckian Artie Ann Bates was born in Blackey, where she now lives with her husband and son in one of the Letcher County homes where she grew up. The daughter of Eunice Cornett Bates, an elementary school teacher, and Bill Bates, a coal miner, she was the fifth of six children in her family...

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Belinda, Our Tremendous Gift

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pp. 64-68

When Belinda Ann Mason is introduced as a member of the prestigious National Commission on AIDS it goes something like this: "Mother of two children who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion during childbirth." Belinda thinks that is not very telling and would prefer to rewrite it, since there seems...

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Frances Courtenay Baylor

Frances Courtenay Baylor was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the daughter of Sophie Baylor Dawson, from Winchester, Virginia, and army officer James Dawson...

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from Behind the Blue Ridge

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pp. 71-116

Unfortunately, John Shore's connection with the church was of the briefest. There are Pharisees in every fold, and that ancient element of all the churches was represented in this one by certain well-to-do farmers' wives who generally sat together, and somewhat apart from all the others, in the chief seats. In the course of the next "protracted meeting" a very poor, and ...

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Sue Ellen Bridgers

Fiction writer Sue Ellen Bridgers grew up in Pitt County, North Carolina, and moved to Jackson County, North Carolina, in 1971. She was the middle child of the three children of Elizabeth Abbott Hunsucker and Wayland Hunsucker. While her father struggled periodically with depression, her...

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from Sara Will

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pp. 74-76

So they went, leaving her on the porch with Rachel cradled to her chest. She pulled the blanket snugly around the small body everywhere cold could seep in and walked out into the yard. The baby was quiet, fed, groggy, content. She didn't seem to know or care in whose arms she nestled. Held out at...

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Florence Cope Bush

Florence Cope Bush is the daughter of Dora ("Dorie") Woodruff Cope and Fred Cope. Born in Tremont, Tennessee, a small community between Townsend and Cades Cove, she lived there only three years before her parents' land was claimed by eminent domain to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. "I have no memory of ever having lived in the misty...

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from Dorie: Woman of the Mountains

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pp. 79-80

In the early spring of 1899, Pa decided to move closer to his job. He rented a small farm near the Cherokee reservation. They loaded their few pieces of furniture on a wagon and moved in time for spring planting. Ma worked along beside him until her time to give birth. I was born May 8, 1899, almost an anniversary gift to them...

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Kathryn Stripling Byer

The daughter of a homemaker and a farmer, Kathryn Stripling Byer grew up in southwest Georgia. She graduated from Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, in 1966 with a B.A., and earned her M.F.A. in 1968 at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, where she studied with Allen Tate, Fred Chappell, and Robert Watson. While there, she won the Academy of American...

Wildwood Flower

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pp. 83-128


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pp. 84-129


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pp. 84-85


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pp. 86-132

Mountain Time

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pp. 87-88

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Candie Carawan

Cultural educator Candie Anderson Carawan has been at the forefront of social change in Appalachia since the 1960s. A native Californian, Carawan first came to the South as a college art major on an exchange program from Pomona College in Claremont, California, to Fisk University in Nashville....

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from Sing for Freedom

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pp. 91-94

In the spring of 1989, Appalachian miners striking the Pittston Coal Company were singing "We Shall Overcome." In China, where a massive campaign for democracy by students and workers has just been put down, students were photographed with "We Shall Overcome" on their headbands and Tshirts. Bishop Desmond Tutu has used the song as he tries to help people...

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Jo Carson

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pp. 95-96

Jo Carson is a native of Johnson City, Tennessee, where she makes her home. A poet, a playwright, a short story author, and an actress, Carson graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1973 with a degree in speech and theater. In addition to writing and acting, Carson has been an occasional commentator for National Public...

40, from Stories I Ain't Told Nobody Yet

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pp. 97-143

49, from Stories I Ain't Told Nobody Yet

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pp. 98-144

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from Maybe, The Last of the 'Waltz Across Texas' and Other Stories

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pp. 99-101

[Dessa:] I am not telling this for sympathy. I don't like sympathy and I don't want any of it. Harry'll say I made my own bed and I now have the honor of lying down in it. Well, maybe I did. If I did, what I'm doing right now is tucking in the corners like they ought to be tucked in. No call for sympathy...

from Daytrips

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pp. 102-105

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Rebecca Caudill

Rebecca Caudill was a teacher, an editor, and an author of more than twenty books for young adults and children, many of which were set in Appalachia. Caudill was born in Harlan County, Kentucky, to Susan Smith Caudill and George W Caudill, who were both teachers. Rebecca was educated at Wesleyan College (A.B., 1920) in Macon, Georgia, and Vanderbilt University (M.A., ...

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from My Appalachia

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pp. 108-111

On a summer Sunday morning in 1938 in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, where I had been doing historical research, I glanced idly at the eastern section of a road map of Kentucky.
"Poor Fork!" I thought. "While I'm so near, why not go back to Poor Fork?"
Since I did not need to hurry home, I would go to see the place of my birth and early childhood...

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Lillie D. Chaffin

Lillie Dorton Chaffin Kash grew up in eastern Kentucky, the daughter of Fairy Belle Kelly Dorton and Kenis Roscoe Dorton. A graduate of Pikeville College (B.S., 1956) and Eastern Kentucky University (M.A., 1966), she began her career as an elementary school teacher and a librarian. In the 1960s, she became a freelance writer of poetry and books for children. As a wife, a...

Second Christmas

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pp. 114-160

Spending the Night

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pp. 114-161


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pp. 115-162

The Glad Gardener

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pp. 116-163

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Loletta Clouse

Novelist Loletta Clouse spent her childhood in Cumberland Homesteads, a New Deal community in middle Tennessee that was designed to give destitute workers both employment and the opportunity to own a thirty-acre farm. "My grandparents were original Homesteaders," says Clouse. "Before that, they had lived in a coal mining camp, which is where my mother grew...

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from Wilder

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pp. 119-122

Lacey filled two plates with mounds of food and carried them to a large oak where John was already spreading a quilt. The preaching had been going on for over three hours, and the crowd was drained. They eagerly filled their plates with food the women had brought in covered dishes and spread on long tables covered with white tablecloths. People made their way to the...

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Ann Cobb

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pp. 123-170

A native New Englander, Ann Cobb arrived in Kentucky in 1905 at the invitation of May Stone, a former classmate at Wellesley College. Stone and a fellow teacher, Katherine Pettit, had established the Hindman Settlement School (a school for mountain youth) in eastern Kentucky in 1902. Cobb was so impressed with the fledgling school that she joined the Hindman staff ...

The Boy

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pp. 124-171


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pp. 125-172

The Widow Man

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pp. 125-173


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pp. 126-127

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Lisa Coffman

Poet Lisa Coffman grew up in East Tennessee. Her mother's family lived in Glenmary, Tennessee, a once bustling logging and mining town. She completed her B.A. in computer science and English at the University of Tennessee in 1985, spent a year in Germany as a Rotary Exchange Scholar at...

In Envy of Migration

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pp. 130-178


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pp. 131-132

About the Pelvis

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pp. 133-181


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pp. 134-135

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Amy Tipton Cortner

Amy Tipton Cortner is a writer and a teacher who grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee. She is the daughter of Anne Grafton Tipton, a homemaker "whose profession continues to be caring for all of us-not an easy task," says Cortner. Cortner traces her maternal heritage to South Carolina from the 1640s and her paternal connections to East Tennessee from 1768. Her father, Kermit...

The Hillbilly Vampire

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pp. 138-186

The Vampire Ethnographer

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pp. 139-187

No Minority

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pp. 140-188

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Lou V.P. Crabtree

Born in Washington County, Virginia, Lou Crabtree has spent most of her life in Appalachia. She credits her mother for teaching her to love words. "She loved to read and she taught me to love literature when I was real young." Her father attended Milligan College in Tennessee. Although he never went to law school, he served as a "squire" who officiated over local disputes and...

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Homer-Snake, from Sweet Hollow

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pp. 143-149

Old Marth claimed all the blacksnakes as hers. She tongue-lashed the roving Murray boys, who went into people's barns and caught snakes and took them by their tails and cracked them like whips. This cracking broke the body of the snake and sometimes snapped off its head. It was terrible to see the Murray...


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pp. 150-198

Sports Widow

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pp. 151-199

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Olive Tilford Dargan

Olive Tilford Dargan's literary career spanned half a century and embraced numerous genres, including poetry, drama, short stories, and novels. Dargan was born on a farm near Litchfield, Kentucky, and spent her early childhood there. When she was ten, her schoolteacher parents moved the family to...

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from Call Home the Heart

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pp. 154-155

When that first year's crop was harvested it proved as abundant as its promise. Britt walked among his neighbors feeling their commending eyes upon him. Gaffney [the storekeeper] shook his hand when he brought his first load of corn down to pay on the family debt. That debt was larger than...

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Doris Davenport

Born in Gainesville, Florida, Doris Davenport lived in Cornelia, Georgia, from age five until age fifteen, when people, experiences, and landscapes of northeast Georgia began to shape her identity. The oldest daughter of Ethel Mae Gibson Davenport and Claude Davenport, she attended the "Cornelia Regional Colored High School, one 'magnet' school which included grades ...


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pp. 158-206

for Dr. Josefina Garcia & the "Tissue Committee"

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pp. 159-160

zora neale

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pp. 161-209

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Rebecca Harding Davis

Rebecca Blaine Harding Davis was the first of five children of Rachel Leet Wilson Harding and Richard Harding. She was born at the family home of her mother's Irish grandparents, the first white settlers in Washington County, Pennsylvania...

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from Life in the Iron Mills

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pp. 164-167

My story is very simple,-only what I remember of the life of one of these men,-a furnace-tender in one of Kirby & John's rolling-mills,-Hugh Wolfe. You know the mills? They took the great order for the Lower Virginia railroads there last winter; run usually with about a thousand men. I cannot tell why I choose the half-forgotten story of this Wolfe more than that of ...

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Ann Deagon

The daughter of Robert and Alice Webb Fleming, Ann Deagon was born in Birmingham, Alabama. She earned her B.A. from Birmingham-Southern College in 1950 and her doctorate in classical studies from the University of North Carolina in 1954. In 1951 she married Donald Deagon and is now...

Giving the Sun

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pp. 170-218

The Hole

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pp. 170-219


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pp. 171-220

Poetics South

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pp. 172-221

In a Time of Drought

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pp. 173-222


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pp. 173-223

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Angelyn DeBord

Playwright, actress, and storyteller, Angelyn DeBord grew up in western North Carolina. "The music and language of Appalachia has been the inspiration for all of my writing," says DeBord. In an interview in the Appalshop film Strangers and Kin, she tells of moving to the North Carolina Piedmont for her dad to find work when she was a child. The whole family suffered from...

from Praise House

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pp. 176-178

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Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her memoir, An American Childhood, focuses on her early years and her parents. She attended Hollins College in southwest Virginia and earned her B.A. in 1967 and her M.A. in 1968, both in English literature...

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from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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pp. 181-182

I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia's Blue Ridge. An anchorite's hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle to a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at...

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Hilda Downer

Hilda Downer was born and raised in the small western North Carolina community of Bandana, a place so named because a red bandana tied to a laurel signaled the train where to leave the mail. Her birthplace is crucial to her poetry, providing its remote settings, natural imagery, and indigenous...

This is what history is

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pp. 185-235

A woman is segmented as an ant

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pp. 185-237

Every open space fills with sky

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pp. 186-187

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Muriel Miller Dressler

Poet and lecturer Muriel Dressler was born in Kanawha County, West Virginia, in a small community southeast of Charleston called Witcher. She told editor William Plumley that she didn't finish high school. "Her real education, she was fond of saying, came at the heels of her mother in the...


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pp. 190-242

Elegy For Jody

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pp. 191-243

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Will Allen Dromgoole

Will Allen Dromgoole was a poet, local color fiction writer, and playwright from Rutherford County, Tennessee. She served as Poet Laureate of Tennessee, and in 1930 she was appointed Poet Laureate of the Poetry Society of the South. A Boston editor asserted that "her love of the South is only surpassed...

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from Fiddling His Way to Fame, The Heart of Old Hickory

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pp. 194-196

We had fallen in with a party of Alabama boys, and all having the same end in view-a good time-we joined forces and pitched our tents on the bank of the Clinch, the prettiest stream in Tennessee, and set about enjoying ourselves after our own approved fashion...

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Wilma Dykeman

A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Wilma Dykeman inherited a deep love of the written word and the natural world from her parents, Bonnie Cole Dykeman and Willard Dykeman. The family spent evenings reading aloud, and Dykeman describes her childhood home as "a bounty of woods...

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from Return the Innocent Earth

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pp. 199-203

We came from the airport to the factory, stopping only at the gleaming new motel on the south edge of town to leave my two-suiter. (There are so many who would have claimed me if they had known I was coming: my brother, Monty, Aunt Nettie Sue, and others. But this time I needed the...

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from The French Broad

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pp. 204-207

On the opposite side of the French Broad watershed, where bold Allen's Creek rushes down out of the Balsams, anyone you talk with up or down that creek and many adjoining ones can tell you who Granny Sarah McNabb is and where she lives. In a weathered little house yon side of the creek...

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Sarah Barnwell Elliott

Sarah Barnwell Elliott was the daughter of Charlotte Bull Barnwell Elliott and Bishop Stephen Elliott, one of the founders of the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. Born in Georgia, Elliott spent most of her life at Sewanee, with the exception of a year at Johns Hopkins University (1886), ...

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from The Durket Sperret

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pp. 210-212

At the time this story opens, the railway station, known as Sewanee, consisted of a few shops, the post-office, and one or two small houses, built about a barren square. From this a broad road led to the "University," and the other end of Sewanee. Up this road the butcher and shoemaker had planted some...

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Sidney Saylor Farr

A native of eastern Kentucky, Sidney Saylor Farr is a poet, an essayist, an editor, and a writer of short fiction. A graduate of Berea College (B.A., 1980), Farr grew up near Pine Mountain, Kentucky, an experience she shares in her books, More Than Moonshine: Appalachian Recipes and Recollections and Table Talk: Appalachian Meals and Memories...

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from More than Moonshine

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pp. 215-216

I read the other day that a cook in an old-time country kitchen walked at least 350 miles a year preparing three meals a day. My mother, grandmother, and Granny Brock, as well as other women in the Appalachian Mountains, probably walked three times that distance as they scoured the garden rows...

Granny Brock

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pp. 217-272

Mountains Fill Up the Night

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pp. 218-273

Appalachia, Where are your Hills?

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pp. 219-274

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Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney is a founding member of the Affrilachian poets, a community-based group of Appalachian writers of African descent living in and around Lexington, Kentucky. Born in Conway, South Carolina, she is the only daughter of parents who both grew up on farms. Her mother, an elementary school...

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from Queen Ida's Hair-Doing House of Waves, Heartwood

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pp. 222-224

Lots of black women did hair in Luketown. Most of them did it just as a favor for a girlfriend, just because they were good at it, and some did it just for fun. They would sit a sister, a niece, or some other family member down in the middle of their kitchen, in the middle of an easy Saturday, laugh, talk...

Irons At Her Feet

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pp. 225-226

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Lucy Furman

Short story writer Lucy Furman was born in Henderson, Kentucky, and was orphaned when she was young. An aunt took her into her home and sent her to school in Lexington's Sayre Institute, from which Furman graduated at the age of sixteen. She lived with her grandparents for several years, before...

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from Sight to the Blind

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pp. 229-230

One morning in early September, Miss Shippen, the trained nurse at the Settlement School on Perilous, set off for a day of district-visiting over on Clinch, accompanied by Miss Loring, another of the workers. After riding up Perilous Creek a short distance, they crossed Tudor Mountain, and then...

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Denise Giardina

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pp. 231-233

Born in Bluefield, West Virginia, Denise Giardina (pronounced jar-DEE-na) is the daughter of Leona Whitt Giardina, a nurse who grew up in eastern Kentucky, and Dennis Giardina, an accountant whose family came from Sicily to work in the mines. She grew up in the coal mining camp of Black...

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from Storming Heaven

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pp. 234-235

You have seen old photographs, brown and sweet-looking, as though dipped in light molasses. My memories of the Homeplace in Kentucky are like that. Sweet, bitter-sweet.
When I was ten years old, Ben Honaker lent me his copy of Wuthering Heights. I loved it, just for the name of it, even before I read it. It has the...

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from The Unquiet Earth

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pp. 236-239

When my daddy died I was an infant, lying on his chest with his thumb caught tight in my fist. I try to remember properly. I try to remember to hold on tighter to that thumb, to keep the warmth from seeping out. If I squeeze hard enough I'll recreate him, thumb first, then the rough hand, the forearm with its thick brown hair, the soft fold of skin over his throat, the chin stubbled ...

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Janice Holt Giles

A native of Arkansas, Janice Holt Giles attended the University of Arkansas, as well as Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. Her first marriage ended in divorce in 1939, and in 1945 she married Henry Giles, a Kentuckian whose family had settled in the state during the eighteenth...

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from Hannah Fowler

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pp. 242-244

It was black dark when she awakened. She rolled over and edged to the front of the lean-to, looked at the sky. She judged it was near midnight. Certainly the dawn was several hours off yet. She shivered as she crawled out of the warm bed and reached back for the blanket to wrap about her shoulders...

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Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, into a close-knit Mrican American family. Although her parents moved the family to Cincinnati when Giovanni was an infant, she returned frequently to Tennessee to be with her grandparents, and she attended Austin High School in Knoxville...

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Griots, from Racism 101

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pp. 247-248

I must have heard my first stories in my mother's womb.
Mother loved a good story and my father told good jokes, but it was her father, Grandpapa, who told the heroic tales oflong ago. Grandpapa was a Fisk University graduate (1905) who had majored in Latin. As he sometimes told the story, he had intended to be a diplomat until...

Knoxville, Tennessee

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pp. 249-304

Revolutionary Dreams

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pp. 250-305

A Poem Off Center

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pp. 250-251

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Gail Godwin

Gail Godwin grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, with her mother and her maternal grandmother. In her essay "On Becoming a Writer," Godwin explains that her grandmother took care of their domestic life, while her mother, Kathleen Godwin, who had earned an M.A. at the University of North Carolina...

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from A Southern Family

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pp. 254-256

"How did you ever find this place, Julia? A meadow on top of a mountain? The air up here is like champagne. Why didn't we know about this spot when we were growing up?"
"It's called Pinnacle Old Bald by the locals, but it still goes by its unpronounceable Indian name on the maps. So when people come asking for it, of...

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Connie Jordan Green

Born in West Virginia, children's author Connie Jordan Green moved to the wartime development of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 1944. Although Green spent her childhood in the "Atomic City," her connection to a more traditional Appalachia remained strong...

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from The war at Home

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pp. 259-261

"Cat got your tongue, Virgil?" Mattie asked. Then she hated herself for saying the words that made her sound just like Gran.
But Virgil wasn't paying any attention to her. He hunched low in the car seat as the armed guard walked toward them. With World War II raging across the oceans, the guards checked everyone who came in or out of the...

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Virginia Hamilton

Virginia Hamilton was the first African American writer to win the Newbery Medal, one of the most prestigious awards in children's literature. A native of Yellow Springs, Ohio, Hamilton's lifelong interest in African American history grew from the tales told by her maternal grandfather, who was born a...

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from M. C Higgins the Great

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pp. 264-266

It wasn't often that he and Jones could sit down together without Jones having to test him or think up a game to see if he could win it. He knew Jones only wanted to have him strong and to have him win. But he wished his father wouldn't always have to teach him...

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Pauletta Hansel

Poet Pauletta Hansel is one of three children of Lamie Lewis Hansel and Charles Hansel of Somerset, Kentucky. Born and raised in eastern Kentucky, she began writing when she was a child and became a published poet (in Mountain Review) when she was a teenager. At age sixteen, while still in high school, she was recruited to enroll at Antioch College. She attended Antioch's...

Writing Lessons (1.)

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pp. 269-325


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pp. 270-326

Writing Lessons (II.)

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pp. 271-327

To her mother, lying in state

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pp. 272-273

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Corra Harris

Corra Mae (or Mary) White Harris was born in Elbert County, Georgia. She married Lundy Howard Harris, a Methodist clergyman, in 1887 and began writing in an effort to eke out a living after her husband suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to resign his professorship at Emory College. She...

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from A Circuit Rider's Wife

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pp. 276-332

I have often wondered what would have happened if the prodigal son had been a daughter. Would the father have hurried out to meet her, put a ring on her finger and killed the fatted calf? I doubt it. I doubt if she would ever have come home at all, and if she had come the best he could have done...

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Mildred Haun

East Tennessean Mildred Eunice Haun was one of three children of Margaret Ellen Haun and James Enzor Haun. As the writer explained, "My mother was a Cocke County Haun and married a Hamblen County Haun." Mildred grew up in the Hoot Owl District of Cocke County, Tennessee, and attended...

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from The Hawk's Done Gone

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pp. 279-281

I wonder why Ad and Linus never tried to sell me off to them hunters for old things. I would be a sight for somebody to look at. Big and motley and rough-looking. Old and still strong for my age. I miss the things they have sold. These new-fangled things are weak. They make me feel weak too...

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Ellesa Clay High

Ellesa Clay High was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, but has chosen to reside in Appalachia for most of her adult life. Her mother was a teacher and poet who, High says, "grew verse as abundantly as the beans she raised in her garden," and was a major influence on her daughter's lifelong love of words...

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from Past Titan Rock

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pp. 284-286

Time depends on the river here. To go where I want in the Gorge usually doesn't take long in the bone white heat of summer. You follow the asphalt highway through part of the Gorge, then veer onto a graveled, one lane road with passing places. If you know where to look, after a while you'll...

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Mary Bozeman Hodges

Mary Bozeman Hodges grew up in Jefferson City, Tennessee, the daughter of Charlie Mae McGill Bozeman and Paul Bozeman. She credits both her parents with influencing her love of language. "My mother always read to me from the classics. Even when there were words I didn't understand, she...

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Ms. Ida Mae, from Tough Customers and Other Stories

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pp. 289-291

What do I want you to call me? Why, everybody just calls me Ida Mae. "Mrs." kinda runs against my grain right now, don't you know. And, course, I ain't no "Miss." Bur, you can tell that from my ring, can't you? Or maybe you got that off the form your nurse had me fill out. The one you got there...

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Gloria Houston

Children's author and educator Gloria Houston is a native of Marion, North Carolina. Her parents ran a country store near Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and, Houston says, she was "saturated with language, almost from birth. I heard the language of every stratum of society as customers came and went."...

from My Great-Aunt Arizona

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pp. 294-297

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Lee Howard

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pp. 298-354

Eastern Kentucky native Lee Howard was a poet and short story author. "My mountain voice is my first and true voice," wrote Howard. "The thing I tell people after giving my name, is that I'm from the mountains in East Kentucky."
Howard's ancestors arrived in Kentucky even earlier than Daniel Boone, and have lived there ever since. Howard, who spent the last years of her life...

Momma's Letter

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pp. 299-356

The Last Unmined Vein

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pp. 300-302

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Mary Johnston

Mary Johnston was born in Buchanan, Virginia, the daughter of a Confederate veteran. The eldest of six children, she was schooled at home until the age of sixteen, when her mother's death forced her to take over the management of the Johnston household. The family moved to New York City for a time,...

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from The Long Roll

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pp. 305-306

It was the middle of July, 1861.
First Brigade headquarters was a tree-an especially big tree-a little removed from the others. Beneath it stood a kitchen chair and a wooden table, requisitioned from the nearest cabin and scrupulously paid for. At one side was an extremely small tent, but Brigadier-General T.J. Jackson rarely...

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Mary Harris "Mother" Jones

Mary Harris "Mother" Jones, labor organizer and union gadfly, was born in Ireland in the 1830s. Her father's anti-British activities forced the family to flee to the United States where Jones worked as a schoolteacher in Memphis, and later, as a dressmaker in Chicago. In 1861, she married George E. Jones...

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from The Autobiography of Mother Jones

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pp. 309-310

It was about 1891 when I was down in Virginia. There was a strike in the Dietz mines and the boys had sent for me. When I got off the train at Norton a fellow walked up to me and asked me if I were Mother Jones.
"Yes, I am Mother Jones."
He looked terribly frightened. "The superintendent told me that if you came down here he would blowout your brains. He said he didn't want to...

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Jane Wilson Joyce

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pp. 311-368

Poet Jane Wilson Joyce grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. Her mother is a painter and a native of England, and her father spent his entire life in upper East Tennessee. "What with his stories, and her habit of looking, I found a lot of what I needed in their relationship to the region-how they helped me...

Life and Art in East Tennessee

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pp. 312-369

Hooked Album Quilt, 1870

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pp. 313-314

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May Justus

A prolific writer of children's books, May Justus was born in Del Rio, Tennessee. "I am a Smoky Mountaineer, born and bred, and proud of it," wrote Justus in the 1950s. "The mountain culture of the past is fading .... The old customs, the folk speech, the ballads, the fiddle tunes, the play party singing games, the...

Weather Rhymes

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pp. 317-318

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Edith Summers Kelley

The youngest child of Scottish immigrant parents, Edith Summers was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. By the age of thirteen, she had sold her first story to a local newspaper. She received a scholarship to attend the University of Toronto and graduated with honors in 1903...

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from Weeds

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pp. 321-322

But with the growth of this harmony with natural things, Judith developed a constantly growing tendency to clash with the life of the school and the home kitchen and the kitchens of the various relatives with whom the Pippingers visited. She was considered by her aunts and other female relatives "a wild, bad little limb," and her contempt for the decent and domestic...

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Leatha Kendrick

Poet Leatha Kendrick was born in her mother's hometown of Granite City, Illinois, but spent most of her childhood in her father's native Kentucky. "I have always had this dual sense of 'home,'" says Kendrick. "I come from farming people, so I felt rooted in both the red clay of Kentucky and the...

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from No Place Like Home

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pp. 325-326

It's August now. Two months since I started this essay. My daughters are home, briefly, between summer commitments and school. I cook. I wash. I set my real work of writing aside. Devoured by the all-consuming work of "caring-for"-that gaping maw of giving, a mouth like those eager ones that...

The Familiar Level

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pp. 327-384

Refusing a Spinal

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pp. 328-329

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Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver was born in Annapolis, Maryland, but spent most of her childhood in eastern Kentucky. In 1977, she graduated, magna cum laude, from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, with a degree in biology, then earned an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University...

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from The Bean Trees

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pp. 332-335

I have been afraid of putting air in a tire ever since I saw a tractor tire blow up and throw Newt Hardbine's father over the top of the Standard Oil sign. I'm not lying. He got stuck up there. About nineteen people congregated during the time it took for Norman Strick to walk up to the Courthouse...

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from Prodigal Summer

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pp. 336-337

The trail ended abruptly at the overlook. It never failed to take her breath away: a cliff face where the forest simply opened and the mountain dropped away at your feet, down hundreds of feet of limestone wall that would be a tough scramble even for a squirrel. The first time she'd come this way she was...

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Lisa Koger

One of three children of Anne Vannoy Jones, a teacher and homemaker, and Eldred Jones, a welder, Lisa Koger grew up in Gilmer County, West Virginia. She married Jerry L. Koger, an engineer, in 1974, the same year that she graduated with honors from West Virginia University with a bachelor's degree in social work. She studied journalism at the University of Tennessee...

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from Extended Learning, Farlanburg Stories

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pp. 340-345

At eleven o'clock the next morning, Frank and Marjorie were still asleep. The sun had completed half its arc across the sky, and Della's dogs, two male mongrels, had already lumbered off to find shade. Silvervine , the cat, just returned from hunting, sat licking her paws and sunning herself on the walk...

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Caatherine Landis

Novelist Catherine Landis is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee. After graduating from Davidson College in 1978 with a B.A. in English, she spent several years as a newspaper reporter in New Bern, North Carolina, before moving on to a job in the promotions department at Kentucky Educational Television (KET). She resides in Knoxville, Tennessee, with her husband and two sons...

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from Some Days There's Pie

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pp. 348-352

Rose is dead. I am sorry for it but not surprised; she's been dying for years now. I found her lying on the roll-away in Room 12 of the Little Swiss Inn in Mount Claire, North Carolina. It's just like Rose to have left me the double bed. I don't want to be any trouble, was what she said all the time, but...

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Lily May Ledford

Lily May Ledford, author, musician, and storyteller, was a founding member of the Coon Creek Girls, the country's first all-woman string band. The seventh of fourteen children born to an eastern Kentucky farm family, Ledford's childhood was filled with traditional mountain activities-ginseng digging, ...

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from Coon Creek Girl

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pp. 355-357

Off on my first train trip to my first job in radio at nineteen, I had with me my home-made fiddle case, shaped like a coffin, and my pasteboard suitcase packed with odds and ends of home-made clothing, hand-me-downs and borrowed clothes (everybody had tried to help me out). I had about $9...

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Grace Lumpkin

Grace Lumpkin usually gave 1900 or 1901 as the year of her birth, though her younger sister, born in 1897, says that Lumpkin was 88 when she died in 1980. Born in Milledgeville, Georgia, to Annette Caroline Morris Lumpkin and William Wallace Lumpkin, a Civil War veteran, she was the ninth of...

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from To Make My Bread

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pp. 360-363

Granpap Kirkland and Emma McClure's two sons had ventured out to find the steer and cow. When they did not return Emma stood outside the door and screamed to them. She could not stand long against the strong wind. It blew her against the wall of the cabin with the force of a strong man's fist...

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George Ella Lyon

George Ella Lyon, the daughter of Gladys Fowler Hoskins, a community worker, and Robert Hoskins Jr., a savings and loan officer, is a native of Harlan, Kentucky. "I was born with poor vision and a good ear, into a Southern mountain family and culture rich in stories," she says. "Early on, I wanted...

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from With A Hammer for My Heart

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pp. 366-369

Mamaw: It was at Little Splinter Creek Church that I saw what I saw. It's been thirty-five years and I remember that night like the nights my younguns was born.
Perry Roby had took the Spirit and was shouting "Damnation" up one side of his breath and "Praise Jesus" down the other. August, dusky dark, and...

Where I'm From

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pp. 370-427


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pp. 371-428


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pp. 372-429

Growing Light

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pp. 373-430

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Linda Parsons Marion

A Tennessee native who grew up in Nashville and has lived in Knoxville for nearly three decades, Linda Marion fondly remembers her maternal grandmother's pivotal role in her early years that were punctuated with frequent moves and an unsettled home life. "I always felt I was in the calm eye...


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pp. 376-433

To My Daughter Going Off to College

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pp. 377-378

Welcome to the Other Side

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pp. 379-436

Good Luck Charm

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pp. 380-437

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Catherine Marshall

Sarah Catherine Wood Marshall was born in Johnson City, Tennessee, the daughter of Leonara Whitaker Wood, a teacher, and John Ambrose Wood, a minister. Her parents met while working at a mission school in the mountain community of Del Rio, Tennessee, and Marshall used their experiences...

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from Christy

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pp. 383-385

How can I ever forget that day in early October when Fairlight Spencer sent Zady to tell me that she needed me. Would I please come as soon as possible? No clue was offered as to what the need was. Only Zady's dark brooding eyes and thin face screwed up with worry underscored the urgency...

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Belinda Ann Mason

Journalist and short story author Belinda Ann Mason was a native of Letcher County, Kentucky. "I was born with the mountains in my blood," said Mason. "I could hear music when people talked."
Mason earned a B.S. in journalism from the University of Kentucky in 1980, worked in public relations for a time, then settled into a journalism...

The Gifts of the Spirit

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pp. 388-390

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Kathy L. May

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pp. 391-448

Kathy L. May was born in southern Ohio but spent her childhood in Floyd County, Kentucky. "Some of my earliest memories are of the frequent floods that devastated that area of eastern Kentucky," says May. "My first serious poem, 'Rain,' was about those floods."...


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pp. 392-449


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pp. 393-450


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pp. 394-395

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Truda Williams McCoy

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pp. 396-453

Truda Williams McCoy was the eldest of seven children of Charlotte Casebolt Williams and James T. Williams. Born in Pikeville, Kentucky, she grew up there and recalled spending much of her childhood helping to care for younger sisters and brothers. She learned to read and write before starting school and...

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from The McCoys

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pp. 397-399

Election day in the hills of Kentucky was always a day to look forward to. It was the only day in the year that everybody met everybody else. Friends and enemies, Republicans and Democrats, the poor and the well-to-do (nobody was considered rich), the respected people of the community and the ones not so well respected. Everybody went to the elections...

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Sharyn McCrumb

Novelist Sharyn McCrumb grew up in Burlington, North Carolina, but hearing tales of her pioneer ancestors from her father, she became enamored with mountain culture at a young age. "It's in the blood," she says, noting that her father's family settled in western North Carolina in the...

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from The Songcatcher

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pp. 402-406

On the North Carolina side of the mountain, Baird Christopher was shelling peas and shucking corn for a vegetarian supper for twenty.
The Cosmic Possum Hikers Hostel was a white Victorian mansion dating from the late nineteenth century. Three miles from the Tennessee state line and a mile outside town, the house stood on a hillock overlooking the French...

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Jeanne McDonald

A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Jeanne McDonald graduated from the College of William and Mary with a B.A. in English and had dreams of being a writer. When some of her early stories were rejected, she settled for occasional writing, coupled with marriage, motherhood, and a career teaching...

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from Up the Hill toward Home

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pp. 409-412

This is a story I've needed to tell for a long time, one that has rolled around in my mind for years now. In many ways it seems like a sad story, but finally I have realized that it has as happy an ending as possible under the circumstances, that it is really a saga of bravery and resilience and just plain determination. It's the story of Mildred Hale, a woman who kept fighting...

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Karen Salyer McElmurray

Karen Salyer McElmurray was born in eastern Kentucky, "where my writing began," she says. "When I was nine years old, I'd visit my grandmother in Johnson County during the summers and I became friends with Vicky Cantrell [now Hayes], the girl across the road. She played twelve-string guitar...

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from Mother of the Disappeared- An Appalachian Birth Mother s Journey

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pp. 415-418

I'm sixteen and I'm on my way to the maternity ward of King's Daughter's Hospital in Frankfort, Kentucky, with a boy I'll call Joe. He's my husband, and we're riding the elevator, which we once skipped school to do all afternoon, for that rush of up and back down and up. Now a nurse with...

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Llewellyn McKernan

Poet and children's author Llewellyn McKernan is a native of Arkansas who has set down roots in West Virginia. She is married to poet John McKernan, and the couple has one daughter. McKernan earned her B.A. in English from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas, in 1963, followed by an M.A. in...

Many Waters

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pp. 421-422

For My Grandmother Who Knows How

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pp. 423-480

The Hollow

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pp. 424-481

Mother Milking

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pp. 425-483


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pp. 426-427

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Irene McKinney

''I'm a hillbilly, a woman, and a poet," says Irene McKinney, "and I understood early on that nobody was going to listen to anything I had to say anyway, so I might as well just say what I want to." She has said what she wanted in four collections of poetry. In 1985, she was the recipient of a...

Twilight in West Virginia: Six O'Clock Mine Report

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pp. 430-489

Deep Mining

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pp. 431-491

Sunday Morning, 1950

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pp. 432-493

The Only Portrait of Emily Dickinson

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pp. 433-494

Visiting My Gravesite: Talbott Churchyard, West Virginia

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pp. 434-495

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Louise McNeill

Poet Louise McNeill was born in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, on a farm that was settled by her ancestors in 1769. She earned an A.B. degree from Concord College in Athens, West Virginia, and, at the age of nineteen, began teaching in a one-room schoolhouse. She later earned a master's degree from Miami of Ohio, and a Ph.D. in history from West Virginia...

The Other Woman

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pp. 437-498

Aubade to Fear (Heavy with Child)

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pp. 437-500

Hill Daughter

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pp. 438-501

Artow Grasses by Greenbrier River

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pp. 439-502

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from The Milkweed Ladies

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pp. 440-441

Until I was sixteen years old, until the roads came, the farm was about all I knew: our green meadows and hilly pastures, our storied old men, the great rolling seasons of moon and sunlight, our limestone cliffs and trickling springs. It was about all I knew, and, except for my father and before him, the old Rebel Captain, all that any of us had even known: just the farm and...

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Jane Merchant

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pp. 442-505

Jane Hess Merchant, one of four children of Donia Swann Merchant and Clarence Leroy Merchant, was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she lived all her life. Debilitated by a bone disease, Merchant spent her adult life in bed, writing poetry that ranged from humorous reflections to religious meditations...

Lanterns and Lamps

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pp. 443-506

First Plowing in the Hills

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pp. 444-507

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Emma Bell Miles

Writer and painter Emma Bell Miles was born to Martha Ann Mirick Bell and Benjamin Franklin Bell. Her mother was visiting relatives in Evanston, Illinois, away from their home along the Ohio River in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, when she gave birth to twins. Miles's brother lived only one day. Both parents were teachers and strict Presbyterians. Because of her frail health,...

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from The Spirit of the Mountains

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pp. 447-448

Solitude is deep water, and small boats do not ride well in it. Only a superficial observer could fail to understand that the mountain people really love their wilderness-love it for its beauty, for its freedom. Their intimacy with it dates from a babyhood when the thrill of clean wet sand was good to little...

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Heather Ross Miller

Poet and novelist Heather Ross Miller was born in Albemarle, North Carolina. Both her father, Fred Ross, and her uncle, James Ross, were novelists, and Miller's aunt Eleanor, herself a poet, married acclaimed fiction writer Peter Taylor. "I took it as natural," says Miller, "this business of finding stories and poems in everyday affairs."...

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from The Edge of the Woods

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pp. 451-452

Here is my name across the top line of my copy book: Anna Marie Wade, born September twenty-third, in the time of the autumnal equinox, when day and night are everywhere on earth of equal length. And winter approaches. In the night, the wind changes and brings frost with morning, turning the songbirds southward. The blood-red bead in the thermometer...

Seventh Grades

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pp. 453-516


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pp. 454-517

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Janice Townley Moore

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pp. 455-518

Poet Janice Townley Moore has lived in Hayesville, in the western North Carolina mountains, and in north Georgia, where she has taught classes in writing and literature at Young Harris College since 1963. She says, "No matter what the subject, the mountains sometimes slip into my poems. The...

All Those Nights

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pp. 456-519

Under The Earth

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pp. 457-520

The Way Back

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pp. 458-521

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MariJo Moore

Poet and fiction writer MariJo Moore is of eastern Cherokee, Irish, and Dutch ancestry. She grew up in western Tennessee and says about her childhood, "I grew up in an alcoholic home with a white stepfather who did not like the idea that I had Indian blood. Reading was my only escape as I grew older...

Story is a Woman

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pp. 461-524

Solidarity in the Night

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pp. 462-525

Ahlawe Usv' Tsigesvgi

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pp. 463-526

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Rumors, from Red Woman With Backward Eyes

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pp. 464-467

It was rumored that Addy May Birdsong would sneak into your house, touch your forehead with her fingers while you were sleeping, and change the course of your dreams. I had heard this rumor for the first time when I was about thirteen. Lydia Rattler, who sat next to me in Home Room, told me this because she had heard that Addy May was related to me...

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Mary Noailles Murfree

The daughter of Fanny Priscilla Dickinson Murfree, who inherited plantations in Tennessee and Mississippi, and William Law Murfree, a successful attorney and published writer, Mary Noailles Murfree was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a town named for her great-grandfather...

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from In the Tennessee Mountains

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pp. 470-471

"Laws-a-me!" she cried, in shrill, toothless glee; "ef hyar ain't 'Vander Price! What brung ye down hyar along 0' we-uns, 'Vander?" she continued, with simulated anxiety. "Hev that thar red heifer 0' our'n lept over the fence agin, an' got inter Pete's corn? Waal, sir, ef she ain't the headin' est heifer!"...

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Elaine Fowler Palencia

Having grown up in Morehead, Kentucky, in the 1950s, where her mother taught at the county high school and her father taught at Morehead State College (now a university), Elaine Fowler Palencia recalls receiving very little emphasis on Appalachia in her formal education. When she was sixteen, her...

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Briers, from Brier Country: Stories from the Blue Valley

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pp. 474-477

They came in a shiny new car. Don Fields was waiting for them under the maples, sitting on one of Mr. Forrester's old yard chairs. We supposed they had called Don from the town. We had seen the man before but not the woman, when the man decided to buy the old Forrester place. From the edges of the yard, we watched and waited...

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Jayne Anne Phillips

Jayne Anne Phillips was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia, the daughter of Martha Jane Thornhill Phillips, a teacher, and Russell R. Phillips, a contractor. Although she left the region after college, much of her work is set in Appalachia. "No one has labeled Phillips as a Southern writer or a woman...

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from Machine Dreams

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pp. 480-483

In the humid nights her mother let her sleep under one thin sheet, an old one worn soft from many washings, and in the dark of her child's bedroom she turned and sweated until the sheet wrapped her small body like a sour cocoon. Night sounds in the house were shot with lambent silence: rotary blades of the stilled electric fans gathered a fine dust behind the ribs of their...

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from Motherkind

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pp. 484-486

When Kate woke, the bed tray was gone. Her mother was gone, and the house was perfectly quiet. She remembered finishing the food and leaning back in bed, and then she'd fallen asleep, dreamlessly, as though she had only to close her eyes to move away, small and weightless, skimming the reflective...

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Lynn Powell

Poet Lynn Powell grew up in Jefferson City, Tennessee, graduated from Carson-Newman College in 1977 and earned her M.F.A. at Cornell University in 1980. Her first collection of poetry, Old &- New Testaments, won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin Press. She is...


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pp. 489-554


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pp. 490-491

The Calling

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pp. 492-493

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Barbara Presnell

For generations, Barbara Presnell's family has lived in the rolling hills of Randolph County, North Carolina, where she was born and grew up. "Family," she claims, "both my nuclear and my large, extended family, past and present, is perhaps the most important ingredient to my sanity and success, ...

In the Kitchen We String Beans

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pp. 496-562

Clarissa and the Second Coming

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pp. 497-563

When You Lose a Child

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pp. 498-499

Snake Dreams

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pp. 500-566

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Rita Sims Quillen

Poet Rita Quillen's roots go five generations deep in the hills of southwest Virginia. She was born in Hiltons, Virginia, and grew up on the family farm in Scott County first settled by her great-great-grandparents. She received both her B.S. (1978) and her M.A. in English (1985) from East Tennessee...

July 18, 1966

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pp. 503-570

Woman Writer

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pp. 504-572

I Used To Be A Teacup

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pp. 505-573


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pp. 506-574

How Do You Remember Him?

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pp. 507-575

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Jean Ritchie

The youngest of fourteen children, Jean Ritchie grew up surrounded by music. In the evenings, her family gathered on the porch of their farmhouse in Viper, Kentucky, to sing and to tell tales. Ritchie's father taught her how to play the lap dulcimer when she was only five years old...

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from Singing Family of the Cumberlands

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pp. 510-512

I was born in Viper, Kentucky, in the Cumberland Mountains, on the eighth day of December 1922. I think I was a little of a surprise to my mother who had thought that if a woman had a baby in her fortieth year it would be her last. Mom had my brother Wilmer when she was forty, and she settled...

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Elizabeth Madox Roberts

Poet, novelist, and short story writer Elizabeth Madox Roberts was born in Perryville, Kentucky. She was one of eight children of Mary Elizabeth Brent Roberts, a teacher, and Simpson Roberts, a teacher, a store owner, and a surveyor. Her great-grandmother arrived in Kentucky on the Wilderness Road...

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from The Time of Man

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pp. 515-516

Ellen milked her cow by the little gate which led from the dooryard to the pasture. In three days she had learned to make the milk flow easily, stroking the animal flesh with deft fingers. The cow was a slim tan Jersey with a bright face and quick horns. Her body was bony and full of knots-bone joints, and her sides were unsymmetrically balanced. She had slender short...

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Anne Newport Royall

Some sources identify Anne Newport Royall as the first female American newspaper journalist. A dubious legend has it that she once caught President John Quincy Adams skinny dipping in the Potomac and sat on his clothes until he agreed to an exclusive interview. Though their mutual friendship makes the story's credibility questionable, she had a reputation for being a...

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from Sketches of History, Life, and Manners, in the United States

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pp. 519-520

As this famous county is to be a link in the chain which is to connect that part of Virginia east of the mountains with the whole of the western country, I have been at some pains to pick up every thing respecting it. As curiosity leads one to trace things to their origin, such as the history of countries...

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Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant was born in Hopewell, Virginia, and grew up in the mountains of Raleigh County, West Virginia, surrounded by the warmth of a family who lived on the edge of poverty. She is the daughter of a nurse, Leatrel Rylant, and an army sergeant, John Tune. Her parents divorced when she...

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from Missing May

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pp. 523-525

When May died, Ob came back to the trailer, got out of his good suit and into his regular clothes, then went and sat in the Chevy for the rest of the night. That old car had been parked out by the doghouse for as long as I could remember, and the weeds had grown up all around it so you didn't...

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Bettie Sellers

Poet Bettie M. Sellers was born in Tampa, Florida, and was raised in Griffin, Georgia. She moved to the Georgia highlands in 1965 when she and her husband accepted teaching positions at Young Harris College in Young Harris, Georgia...


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pp. 528-596

Mornings, Sheba Combs Her Hair

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pp. 529-597

Liza's Monday

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pp. 530-599

The Morning of the Red-Tailed Hawk

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pp. 531-601

All On A Summer's Afternoon

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pp. 532-602

Legacy For Rachel

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pp. 533-603

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Mary Lee Settle

Born in Charleston, West Virginia, Mary Lee Settle's childhood was divided between West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, where her father worked as a civil engineer. She attended Sweet Briar College from 1936 to 1938, then worked at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, where she was "discovered" and...

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from Addie

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pp. 536-538

Addie had married at fifteen into the Morris family, who were victims of a change that had been going on since 1812, when the salt wells were dug north of the river at Burning Springs, a few miles east of Charleston. Christopher Morris, her husband, like most of the men, had gone into the new...

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from The Killing Ground

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pp. 539-542

For the second time in my life I saw Jake Catlett-not that I knew it. It would take years for me to recall a sixteen-year-old boy, old Jake's least one, who looked, in his Sunday suit, like Ichabod Crane.
At the jail that late afternoon I only saw the back of the man who had murdered my brother, and I wanted, in a surge of hate, to kill him, stamp...

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Anne Shelby

Essayist, poet, children's author, and playwright Anne Shelby is a native of eastern Kentucky. Both of her parents were schoolteachers, and Shelby notes that during her childhood, "Most of the people I knew were schoolteachers or farmers. I didn't know anybody who was a writer."...

Why I Write

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pp. 545-616

Fat Sestina

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pp. 546-547


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pp. 548-619

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Muriel Earley Sheppard

Born in Andover, New York, Muriel Earley Sheppard, an English major with a degree from Alfred University, moved with her mining engineer husband to the mining town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, in 1927. According to novelist John Ehle, who wrote the foreword to the 1991 edition of her work,...

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from Cabins in the Laurel

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pp. 551-553

The most sensational murder case in the history of the Toe River Valley was that of Frankie Silvers, accused of killing her husband, Charles Silvers. The defendant, who was tried in Morganton two years before county government was established in the Valley itself, was the first woman hanged in...

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Betsy Sholl

Poet Betsy Sholl grew up in Brick Town, New Jersey, and was educated at Bucknell University (B.A.,1967), University of Rochester (M.A., 1969), and Vermont College (M.F.A., 1989). In 1976 she moved from Boston to a double-wide trailer on Clinch Haven farm near Big Stone Gap, Virginia, when her...

Appalachian Winter

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pp. 556-559

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Ellen Harvey Showell

Ellen Harvey Showell was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, and grew up in Monroe and Greenbrier counties in West Virginia. The daughter of a teacher, Elizabeth Hudson Harvey, and a cabinet maker, Clarence Ballard Harvey, she married John S. Showell and has one son, Michael, who publishes the...

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from Our Mountain

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pp. 562-564

When you are far away, our mountain looks like a big round hill covered with trees. But if you climb up, it changes. Our mountain goes up and down and up again and there are high flat parts and ridges and hollows, which are little valleys. You can be in a fairly open and level place, and come...

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Bennie Lee Sinclair

South Carolina Poet Laureate, Bennie Lee Sinclair, was the ninth generation of her family to live in the mountainous upstate region of South Carolina.
At Furman University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, she met Don Lewis, and in 1958 they married. They built a small cabin on two acres given to them as a wedding present and held part-time jobs in addition to...


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pp. 567-638


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pp. 567-640

My Father. His Rabbits.

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pp. 568-642

Backwoods Haiku

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pp. 569-643

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Verna Mae Slone

Verna Mae Slone grew up in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, near the town of Pippa Passes. Her formal education ended before she had completed high school because her family needed her to work.
She wrote her first book, What My Heart wants to Tell, when she was in her sixties. The original manuscript was written in longhand and intended...

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from What My Heart W2ints to Tell

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pp. 572-573

Sarah Alverta was my sister's name but I always called her Sissy. She was born with a normal mental capacity, but when she was eighteen months old, she had a fever that lasted six weeks. The doctor called it a brain fever. When she recovered she could not talk and her mind never grew anymore, but...

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Barbara Smith

Barbara Smith was born in Wisconsin but has lived in West Virginia for much of her adult life. She and her husband moved from New York City in 1960 to take teaching positions at Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, West Virginia, "because we both wanted to teach in a church-related liberal...

Bad News

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pp. 576-650

And This Is The Way To Be Poor

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pp. 577-651

The Language of Poetry

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pp. 578-652

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Effie Waller Smith

Eastern Kentucky poet Effie Waller Smith was the daughter of Sibbie and Frank Waller, former slaves who saw to it that all of their children received an education, even though educational opportunities at the turn of the century for black and white students in Pike County, Kentucky, were extremely limited...

Memories of Home

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pp. 581-582

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Lee Smith

Fiction writer Lee Smith was born in mountainous southwest Virginia, in the town of Grundy, where her family goes back four generations. Her mother, Virginia Marshall Smith, a home economics teacher from eastern Virginia, married Ernest Lee Smith, a businessman who owned a Ben Franklin department store. She went to boarding school at St. Catherine's School in...

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from Saving Grace

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pp. 585-590

My name is Florida Grace Shepherd, Florida for the state I was born in, Grace for the grace of God. I am the eleventh child of the Reverend Virgil Shepherd, born to him and his third wife, Fannie Flowers. They say I take after her, and I am proud of this, for she was lovely as the day is long, in spirit...

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Jane Stuart

Poet, short story writer, and novelist Jane Stuart was born in Ashland, Kentucky, the daughter of well-known author Jesse Stuart. She describes her childhood home in Greenup, Kentucky, as a log cabin which had "ten rooms ... with books in eight of them." Stuart says, "My writing was always influenced by Appalachia. I never tried to 'get away' or write about anything that did...

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Cycles from Transparencies

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pp. 593-667

It seems strange, looking back, that at the time of death the respectful funeral home silence is punctuated by quiet conversation (relatives) and spurts of nervous laughter (children). I suppose that I was both a child and a relative. When I tired of standing in a long reception-like line, meeting people...

Where Stuarts Lie

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pp. 594-668


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pp. 594-669


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pp. 595-670

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Adiana Trigani

Adriana Trigiani, the third of seven children in an Italian-American family, moved from Pennsylvania to Big Stone Gap, Virginia, at the age of six, when her parents, Ida and Anthony Trigiani, settled there and opened a garment factory. "She didn't like to weave," notes her mother, "but Adri was creative...

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from Big Stone Gap

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pp. 598-601

This will be a good weekend for reading. I picked up a dozen of Vernie Crabtree's killer chocolate chip cookies at the French Club bake sale yesterday. (I don't know what she puts in them, but they're chewy and crispy at the same time.) Those, a pot of coffee, and a good book are all I will need for the...

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Dana Wildsmith

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pp. 602-677

Poet Dana Wildsmith was born in Macon, Georgia. She grew up in rural Georgia, the daughter of a Methodist minister who was a social activist. She married at nineteen and attended Tusculum College, the University of Tennessee, and Virginia Wesleyan College, moving as often as her husband's duties with the...


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pp. 603-678

New Poor

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pp. 603-680

A Dry Spring

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pp. 604-682

Our Bodies Remember

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pp. 605-606


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pp. 607-686

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Sylvia Wilkinson

The only writer in this book to have served as a motorsports correspondent for Autoweek and as timer/scorer for Paul Newman's race team, Sylvia Wilkinson has impressively diverse interests and talents.
Born in Durham, North Carolina, to Peggy George Wilkinson and Thomas Noell Wilkinson, she excelled in horseback riding and painting as a...

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from Shadow of the Mountain

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pp. 610-612

Two of the local women's club leaders stopped by to welcome me. They were bored and boring. They gave me a bank calendar, a Gideon Bible, and a free set at the local beauty parlor. On the way home I stopped off to see Mollie. We had a good laugh over which one of us should use the beauty...

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Merideth Sue Willis

Born in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Meredith Sue Willis spent her youth in the coal-mining town of Shinnston, West Virginia, where the residents, she explains, "were as likely to be Italian or Spanish or Lebanese as Scotch-Irish." She has become an articulate, outspoken voice against homogeneous portrayals...

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My Boy Elroy, from In the Mountains of America

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pp. 615-623

My grandmother's store sat at a curve in the Wise Mountain road. It was a general merchandise store and mail drop-off for all the farms and hollows and ridges and folds of the mountain community of High Gap. People used to come down near noontime and wait for the mail. The store had so much...

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Leigh Allison Wilson

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pp. 624-703

Short story author Leigh Allison Wilson is a native of Rogersville, Tennessee. She earned a B.A., magna cum laude, from Williams College in 1979 and did graduate work at the University of Virginia from 1979 to 1981. In 1983, Wilson received an M.F.A., with honors, from the University ofIowa Writers'...

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from The Raising, From the Bottom Up

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pp. 625-627

Of the eight matrons perched like pigeons around two identical card tables, Mrs. Bertram Eastman was the lone childless woman. Her husband, in whom-she was sure-the fault lay, only confounded this burden she'd borne for thirty years, fixing a funny look on his face every time the subject came...

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Mary Elizabeth Witherspoon

A native of Florida, Mary Elizabeth Rhyne Witherspoon graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1941 with an A.B. in drama. ''I'd intended to be an actress," says Witherspoon, "but my collegiate studies in drama turned out to be training for writing fiction." She married Jack Witherspoon...

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from The Morning Cool

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pp. 630-634

Between Soap Ridge and the Tennessee River lies a narrow strip of highway edged with towns-Tate City, Danzig, John's Creek, Goshen, Holly. There is a look about these towns of unnatural quiet, of complacency, and strangers passing through have sometimes said to themselves: Here lies the tag end of America; the ridge and the river have boxed these people in, walling out...

More Women Writing in Appalachia

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pp. 635-646

A Selected Bibliography

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pp. 647-652

Index of Titles and Authors

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pp. 653-662


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pp. 663-673

E-ISBN-13: 9780813143576
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813122830

Page Count: 712
Publication Year: 2013