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July 2022 Reviews

July 2022 Reviews

Bearing the Torch: The University of Tennessee, 1794-2010 by T. R. C. Hutton. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2022. 240 pages with an Index, Bibliography, and Notes. Hardback with pictorial cover.

This is the first scholarly history of the University of Tennessee since 1984 and reflects the changing consciousness of the last more than quarter of a century. For example, it treats issues of race and gender extensively and considers the perspectives of students, staff, townies, and faculty as well as administrators. It is more of a social history and less of a top-down treatment than earlier books on UT. A strength of this book is that it examines the relationship between the historical times and the university. The author, T. R. C. Hutton taught at UT for the first twelve years of his career. He now teaches at Glenville State College in West Virginia. He is the author of Bloody Breathitt: Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South (2013).

 A Dark Pathway: Precontact Native American Mud Glyphs from1st Unnamed Cave, Tennessee by Jan F. Simek. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2022. 195 pages with a Foreword by Russell Townsend, chapters by Sarah C. Sherwood and with Todd M. Ablman, an Appendix by Marion O. Smith, an Index, References Cited, figures, tables, charts, illustrations, photos, and nearly one hundred maps. An 8.25 X 10.5 hardback with a pictorial cover.

Wow!  A book on a topic I didn’t even know existed – ancient art in caves created by native peoples of what is now the Southern U.S. This art is found in what is known as the dark zone of caves, their deepest, darkest part. Tennessee has over 10,000 dark zone caves; Kentucky about half that, and Alabama almost as much as Kentucky. Since 1980 when art was discovered in a Tennessee cave almost 100 caves have been found with mud glyphs – drawings on cave surfaces that have plastic clay surfaces. The East Tennessee cave that this book centers on was first explored in 1994. The Foreword is by Russell Townsend, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation who has worked for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for decades. It clarifies that native peoples do have input into the work and conclusions of academic anthropologists. I do have a quarrel with the title of this book, because it did not make what the book is about.  I think it should use the word, “art,” and not use the word, “dark,” because the art is anything but dark. The author, Jan F. Simek, is a professor in the UT Department of Anthropology and has written several books.

Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir by Jim Casada. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2022.  314 pages with a General Index, an Index to Recipes, Reading and Resources: An Annotated Bibliography, and A Glossary of Smokies Foodstuffs and Terms, plus photos. Trade paperback.

See page 48 for author Casada’s delightful description of his grandfather actually fishing – with a cane pole, some fishing line, and a fishing hook with a piece of bread for the bait – for the chicken he had chosen among all the free-range chickens running around the home place.  Casada grew up In Bryson City, North Carolina, at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in a traditional family, and this book tells of the old-fashioned mountain food ways that his family practiced. Nearly 200 family recipes are included. “Jim Casada’s Fishing for Chickens is a superbly entertaining story-telling account of a boy’s mid-twentieth century childhood in the Great Smoky Mountains as seen from the perspective of the daily culinary activities and food production practices of the Smoky mountaineers. Casada’s deft interspersing of mountaineer foodways and folkways with lighthearted self-deprecating anecdotes captures the ethos of the domestic life of this distinctive subregion of the Southern Appalachians like no other book of its kind. Solidly authentic, Fishing for Chickens affords a rare glimpse into a bygone era of Smoky Mountain life.” -- Ken Wise. “Fishing for Chickens sagely, entertainingly, and deliciously reveals that our region is far broader and much more diverse in its stories and experiences than we have yet recorded. By delving deeply into a specific region and using compelling personal narrative and detail, he gives a rich picture that expands, and occasionally challenges, what we think we know about this much storied part of the southern mountains. With a voice inflected with expressions, words, and cadences that are regionally specific, Casada writes with an intimate, conversational feeling that makes this book a pleasure to read.” -- Ronni Lundy.“Fishing for Chickens is a comprehensive, and loving, guide to the grown and gathered foods that form the staples of cooking in the Great Smoky Mountains region, their preparation, and the cultural practices and customs behind each. In this work, Jim Casada aptly displays his talents as perhaps the foremost modern chronicler of Smoky Mountain life.” -- Dan Pierce. Jim Casada served more than twenty years in the history department of Winthrop University and lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Robert Morgan: Essays on the Life and Work edited by Robert M. West and Jesse Graves. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2021. 254 pages with an Index, Bibliography, and photos. A 7” X 10” trade paperback.

This book is a collection of essays by sixteen distinguished scholars along with a previously unpublished article by the subject himself, Robert Morgan, an interview of him, and a bibliography of books and articles by and about Morgan. Few authors have so richly deserved to be catapulted from relative obscurity to a secure presence in the country's literary elite than Robert Morgan. He grew up in humble circumstances in a family that did not own a car, but a bookmobile came to the Green River Baptist Church near their small farm in Henderson County, North Carolina, and he became a voracious reader. In the sixth grade, he didn't have the three dollars to go on the class trip to the Biltmore Estate, so he had to stay by himself that day in his classroom. That is when he wrote his first story. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and then studied under Fred Chapell to receive his MFA from UNC-Greensboro. In 1969 the first of his sixteen poetry collections, Zirconia Poems, was published. He began teaching at Cornell University in 1971.  After twenty years of publishing only poetry, in 1989 the first of his three story collections, The Blue Valleys, was released. Ten years later, in 1999, the first of his six novels, Gap Creek appeared. It was this book that made him nationally known. And it was Oprah Winfrey who gave Gap Creek the nudge that it needed to get the attention of the reading public. Robert Morgan loves to tell the story of the phone call he got from Oprah, and I love hearing it. Of course, he didn't believe it really was her at first! In 1993, Morgan published a non-fiction book on poetry, and in 2007 a biography of Daniel Boone, followed in 2011 by Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion. The co-editors are Robert M. West, who teaches English at Mississippi State, and Jesse Graves who is poet in residence and professor of English at East Tennessee State.



Call It Horses by Jessie van Eerden. Ann Arbor, Michigan. Dancz Books, 2021. 246 pages. Hardback in dust jacket

In a blue Oldsmobile, Nan, Frankie, and Mave escape from West Virginia and head west. Frankie tells the story to Mave’s lover, Ruth, to provide the text of this novel. That story is not so much of the trip, but more of what they discover about themselves and their life in Caudell, West Virginia. "A novel of grit and grace. Jessie van Eerden, in language both lean and lush, tells this story of women on the run―women who discover that in leaving they find exactly where they’re meant to be. The final scene is one I’ll remember always.” ―Lee Martin. "A rich and lyric meditation on love and individuality, Call It Horses depicts three women fleeing―literally, in a stolen, rusty Oldsmobile―the fixed narratives of gender, family, home, and death they’d been coaxed into. Filled with poetry, working class grit, and undogmatic spirituality, this novel shows us what we gain when we become outlaws in our own lives." ―John Englehardt. "I was so moved by this one, I sobbed at the end. And the language! What a gifted author." ―Peg Alford Pursell. This is the third novel by the author, Jessie van Eerden, who teaches at Hollins University in Roanoke.

The Heart of the Mountains by Pepper Basham. Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour Publishing, 2022. 317 pages. Trade paperback.

Cora Taylor is an English nurse in training who flees from London to the North Carolina mountains to avoid a marriage that her father arranges for her. Jeb McAdams returns home to the same mountain community after fighting in World War I. Drawn together by the trauma of the European war, the two begin to share feelings for each other which are disrupted by their discovery of a badly injured woman by the side of the road. Jeb recognizes her as a prostitute and doesn’t want to get involved, but Cora insists that it is their “very real Samaritan Moment.”  "The Heart of the Mountains is a world created with exceptional skills by Pepper Basham. It immersed me in the mountain life until I could see the scenery, smell the plants, hear the mountain breeze and the bird calls. All of that was wonderful, but more than that was the way I felt as I read. The hurt, the love, the longing, the loss, the fear, the joy. Basham created a beautiful, emotional work of art. I enjoyed every word." -  Mary Connealy. The Heart of the Mountains is a beautiful story of second-chances, redemption, and finding home. Filled with breathtaking scenery, heart-tugging encounters, and tender romance, this latest story by Pepper Basham will leave you feeling as if you've just spent time in the dangerous, yet fascinating, Appalachian Mountains." - Gabrielle Meyer. The author, Pepper Basham, is an award-winning Christian romance author who grew up in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains and now lives in Asheville.

My Name Is Yip by Paddy Crewe.  New York: The Overlook Press/Abrams. 2022. 364 pages. Hardback in dust jacket.

Yip Tolroy has never spoken a word since he was born in 1815 in Heron’s Creek, Georgia. He is raised by his mother who runs a general store. When he is fifteen, gold is discovered there in the Georgia mountains, and Yip and his friend Dud Carter are forced to leave their home and flee to the West after a crime is committed. Then, they are forced to return. “Yip Tolroy may not speak, but his voice soars off the page in Paddy Crewe’s terrific debut novel. My Name Is Yip is both an entertaining tale of gold, murder, and the impulse for revenge and a tender coming-of-age story amid the lawlessness of the American frontier.” ―Paul Howarth. “My Name is Yip is so utterly itself and vivid. I haven’t read anything quite like it. A mesmeric and rollicking adventure told by a narrator like no other—one who beguiles, moves, delights, and also had me so worried for him, I was on the edge of my seat. Bold, thrilling, beautifully conceived, and deeply atmospheric. I can’t recommend it enough. Superb to the last full stop.”―Rachel Joyce.The author, Paddy Crewe, is an Englishman who became a professional rugby player. This is his first novel.