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March 2018 Reviews

March 2018 Reviews


Great Smoky Mountain National Park by Grace Hansen. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Abdo Kids, 2018. 24 pages with full-color photographs, an Index and Glossary. Oversized hardback, library binding, pictorial cover, $28.41.

Recommended for children six to seven years old in first and second grades, this educational non-fiction book has chapters on “Elevation and Weather,” “Habitats,” and “Fun Activities,” and lots of animal pictures. The author has written many non-fiction children’s books.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Maddie Spalding. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Core Library/Abdo Publishing, 2017. 48 pages with a map, an Index, a Glossary, and full-color photographs. Oversized hardback, library binding, pictorial cover, $32.79.

Designed for children 8-12 years old in grades 3-6, this book covers geology, biology and the people who settled the land that became the Park. This last section rightfully emphasizes the Cherokee people. The author is a prolific author of non-fiction children’s books who lives in Minnesota.



Gods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018. 294 pages. Hardback with dust jacket. $26.99.

Set in the 1950s in the North Carolina mountains, this novel centers on two characters: Granny May is a folk healer, and Rory Docherty, her grandson, is a wounded Korean War veteran who runs whiskey to the mill town at the bottom of the mountain. This novel was an Okra Pick from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance for last winter. "It’s the characters, so wonderfully vibrant and alive in their all-too-human variety―scared, tightly wound, angry, damaged, yet resourceful and resilient, some honorable, some not―that demonstrate Brown’s prodigious talent. Brown has quickly established himself in the top echelon of Southern writers, and his latest will please readers of Wiley Cash and Ron Rash." - Booklist, starred review. "Powerful . . . explosive . . . Brown's lyrical prose invokes a verdant landscape whose rich past is woven into its roots and people; their dependence on the land and respect for its great mysteries are palpable. This tale of loyalty and retribution will linger with readers." - Publishers Weekly. “If you loved Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, Nightwood by Charles Frazier or anything by Ron Rash, you’ll love it. Appalachian Gothic at its absolute finest. – Jeff Zentner. Taylor Brown grew up on the Georgia coast and graduated from the University of Georgia in 2005. He has lived in Buenos Aires, San Francisco, and the mountains of North Carolina, but now lives in Wilmington, North Carolina. His first book, In the Season of Blood and Gold, is a story collection. His first novel, Fallen Land, is set in the North Carolina Mountains, and his second novel, The River of Kings is set in South Georgia. Gods of Howl Mountain is his third novel.


When Nighttime Shadows Fall by Diane Michael Cantor. Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 2017. 181 pages. Trade paperback, $18.99.

This novel is set in the early 1970s when its protagonist, Laura Bauer, leaves college and her Atlanta home to work in the North Georgia Mountains with pregnant teenagers. She discovers that she, too, faces challenges and that her clients have given as much to her as she has to them. "I read When Nighttime Shadows Fall and was transported--first to the city where I was raised and, later, to the region where I began my career. Diane Michael Cantor's touching portrait of Lauren Bauer is a call for compassion and a reminder of how much most of us take for granted every day."--Allen Mendenhall. "I hope this book will be shared far and wide and expand the consciousness of those reading it.” – Janey Pease. The author, Diane Cantor, is an Atlanta native who lives in Savannah. This is her second novel.


Hushed into Silence by Jeanne Hardt. Nashville: self-published, 2017. 346 pages. Trade paperback. 11.95.

The characters in this novel are Hushed into Silence by secrets they fear will be discovered. The main character, Lily Larsen is sent from her Cades Cove home in the Smoky Mountains to St. Louis to live with her aunt in hopes she will become a “proper” lady. Back in the Cove, her sister, Violet, holds secrets, too, but falls in love with a soldier returning from the Civil War. Jeanne Hardt grew up in the Pacific Northwest and moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music and acting. Instead, a dream in 2010 inspired her to become a novelist. Her first series grew to seven books, beginning five years later, and this is book two in her current series, the Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga.


Murmurs in the Mountains by Jeanne Hardt. Nashville: self-published, 2017. 314 pages. Trade paperback, $11.95.

Murmurs in the Mountains takes its title from gossip surrounding its protagonist. It is the story of Lily Larsen who grew up in Cades Cove on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains in the 1800s and is essentially exiled by her family after the birth of her son who they are raising. She moves to Asheville to work as a nanny. Will they ever be reunited? This is book three in the Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga. Jeanne Hardt grew up in the Pacific Northwest, and moved to Nashville to pursue a music career, but she ended up a novelist.


Snapshot by Chris Helvey. Livingston, Alabama: Livingston Press, 2017. 122 pages. Trade paperback. $13.95.

In this novel, Chris Helvey, who grew up in Eastern Kentucky listening to unforgettable tales, weaves some of them into a novel of an Eastern Kentucky coal miner named Eddie Burke. Chris Helvey now lives in Frankfort, Kentucky.


Harp on the Willow by B. J. Hoff. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2018. 302 pages. Trade paperback. $14.99.

Set in 1869, this Christian novel follows Dr. David Kavanagh to a small West Virginia town. During his three years there he has developed a crush on Serena Norman, the local schoolteacher. But when he agrees to work one day a week at a nearby coal camp, Addie Rose, a coal miner’s daughter, takes a receptionist position in Daniel’s office. The author is a prolific writer of Christian historical novels including novels in five different series. She lives in Ohio.


The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richarcson. New York: Kensington Books, 2017. 272 pages. Trade paperback. $15.00.

A SIBA Okra Pick, this novel is set in small town Kentucky along the Kentucky River. It spans sixty years and four generations, but centers on Flannery Beauregard. Her father has passed his recipe for moonshine on to her, but she is haunted by the prom-night murder of her twin sister. “Richardson has a knack for layering a landscape with secrets, for slowly revealing what’s hidden until suddenly you find what you've been chasing sitting in the palm of your hand. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is bountifully written—a place fully realized and packed with characters you won’t soon forget.” —David Joy. The Sisters of Glass Ferry is so fast paced I couldn’t stop turning the pages, but then I’d smash into another jewel-like sentence and have to stop to reread it. Kim Michele Richardson writes with an authentic Southern voice straight out of Kentucky, well graveled, rough with moonshine, and damn near irresistible.” —Joshilyn Jackson. The author, Kim Michele Richardson, has written two other novels, but is best known for her memoir, The Unbreakable Child, which brings home the abuse suffered by children at the St. Thomas/St. Vincent Orphan Asylum outside Louisville and also chronicles the lawsuit which resulted in the first settlement –$ 1.5 million – paid by Roman Catholic nuns for sexual abuse in the United States.


The Glass River by L. B. Sedlacek. Middletown, Delaware: Four2Three Press, 2017. 245 pages. Oversized trade paperback, $7.99.

This is a murder mystery set in contemporary Happy Valley, North Carolina, in Wilkes County, the site where Tom Dooley grew up and was buried after he was hanged in Statesville in 1868 for the murder of Laura Foster. L. B. Sedlacek is a prolific writer of poetry and fiction. She is co-host of “Coffee House-to-Go” a podcast and the publisher of “The Poetry Market Ezine.”


Seeds of Intention by Andrea Thome. Chicago: Hesse Creek Media, 2017. 302 pages. Trade paperback, $14.95.

This is the author’s second steamy romance novel set on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains. The protagonist, Garrett Oliver, who was also a character in Walland, the first book in her Hesse Creek Series, works as a gardener in a luxury resort. As he prepares to marry his college sweetheart, a new boss arrives at the resort and they feel the irresistible pull of romance. This is the kind of book that hurries the reader smoothly along at a brisk pace with a dollop of titillation. The author is a former broadcast journalist who covered both news and sports. She grew up in West Virginia, and now lives in Chicago. Thome is planning to set the third book in the Hesse Creek Series in Aspen, Colorado. It will feature one of the Seeds of Intention characters, but she is not revealing which one.


Graceland on Wheels & More Sam Jenkins Mysteries by Wayne Zurl. White Bear Lake, Minnesota: Melange Books, 2017. 200 pages. Trade paperback, $15.95.

Wayne Zurl has published nine novels and twenty-seven stories he calls novelettes based on his East Tennessee character, Sam Jenkins, a policeman. This collection includes an Elvis impersonator, a Chinese restaurant owner, a beautiful fortuneteller, pool hustlers, and crooks on a National Guard air base. Zurl grew up on Long Island, served in Vietnam, and became a police officer for the Suffolk County Police Department back home before moving to East Tennessee.



Asheville's Riverside Cemetery by Joshua Darty. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2018. 127 pages with an Index, and many photos. Trade paperback. $21.99

Part of Arcadia’s Images of America series, this book consists primarily of pictures and captions. Established in 1885, Riverside Cemetery is located on the French Broad River near downtown Asheville, the site of a Cherokee settlement centuries ago. This 87-acre cemetery was purchased by the City of Asheville in 1952 and continues to be operated by the city. Featured in this book is the statue that probably inspired Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel and a chapter about Wolfe, who is buried here, and his family. The author, Joshua Darty, has worked for Riverside Cemetery for the past thirteen years, and has been its Director since 2013. He has led tours of the cemetery and overseen restoration projects of various kinds.


Monuments to Absence: Cherokee Removal and the Contest over Southern Memory by Andrew Denson. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2017. 289 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes and photos. Trade paperback: $29.95.

Public History emerged as an academic field about fifty years ago, spurred on, some claim, by the job crisis for history PhDs at that time. Only relatively recently has the study of the history of evolving public history become a focus for scholarly work. And, of course, like other academic fields, the study of anything concerned with ethnic minorities, especially Native Americans, has lagged. So it is with quite a drum-roll that we can announce that a book is now available that chronicles and analyses public history efforts to commemorate the Trail of Tears. Tiya Alicia Miles, a female African-American professor at the University of Michigan who has written both non-fiction and fiction works on Cherokee slavery, writes of this book, “Subtle, powerful, and riveting. Monuments to Absence delves into why and how the historical event of the Cherokee Trail of Tears is remembered in the South. Andrew Denson offers readers a fascinating, stimulating, and wide-ranging treatment of the role of Cherokee removal in southern memory that will set a new directional course in Native American studies and southern history.” Andrew Denson is a history professor at Western Carolina University.


Exploring the Southern Appalachian Grassy Balds: A Hiking Guide by Amy Duernberger. Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 2017. 140 pages with an Index, Bibliography, appendices, maps and both color and black-and-white photos. Trade paperback, $22.99.

Much more than a hiking guide – though exemplary in that regard – this book begins with an exposition of the ecology of the Southern Appalachian grassy bald and then examines the human history of the balds from the time before and after European settlement into the present, as well as the flora and fauna of the balds. Each hike has a map and at least one picture and includes easy-to-browse segments, where appropriate, on “Key Features,” “Highlights,” “Trail Description,” “Getting There,” and “Historical Notes.” The appendices provide lists of hikes in alphabetical order and in order of difficulty, and finally a list of relevant websites. “These mysterious, treeless mountain vistas have captivated visitors and scientists for decades. Fortunately they have also captured the attention of Amy Duernberger. Her guide melds science, cultural history, and travel tips and offers a clarion conservation call. Let Duernberger be your guide to these vanishing treasures.” Travis Knowles. “Perhaps most important, she emphasizes the sense of awe and wonder experienced by early explorers and today’s travelers in visiting these extraordinary areas.” – Peter D. Weigl. Amy Duernberger has worked for the Blue Ridge Parkway. She holds a masters degree in library and information science and lives in Hendersonville, North Carolina.


2018 Dollywood and Beyond! A Theme Park Lover’s Guide to the Smoky Mountain Vacation Region by Michael Fridgen. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Dreamlly Books, 2018. 279 pages with an Index, maps, and icons. Trade paperback, $12.49.

I believe this is the very most detailed guidebook I’ve ever perused. It is well written and accurate. The first 241 pages deal with Dollywood itself leaving only less than 30 pages to deal with the surrounding area before the map section, so don’t count on the “Beyond” in the title being as informative as the “Dollywood.” Michael Fridgen is a “confessed theme park junkie” who was a public school teacher for twelve years and also an international programs director for a university for five years. His first books were novels, and he has also written the World Traveler’s Guide to Disney.


Slavery in Wilkes County North Carolina by Larry J. Griffin. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2017. 175 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes and a Foreword by Evonne Raglin. Trade paperback, $21.99.

This is an impressive, extensive, look at the impact of slavery on this Appalachian County on the Virginia border. It clearly falls more in the category of “local history” rather than “scholarly history” as the emphasis is on the lives of individuals, rather than social trends and their context. Nevertheless, it is exemplary in that field. The reader comes away with an understanding of the role that slave-owners, free persons of color, and slaves have played in Wilkes County history throughout the 1800s. Larry Griffin is a Caucasian who teaches Early Childhood Development at Wilkes County Community College. He has served as the curator of the Wilkes Heritage Museum and writes a column in the local newspaper on county history.


Alleghany County by Samuel Hale II and Dr. Paul Linkenhoker on behalf of the Alleghany Historical Society. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2017. 127 pages with lots of photos. Trade paperback. $21.99.

Alleghany County, Virginia, was first settled by Europeans in 1746 and carved out of Botetourt, Bath and Monroe Counties in 1822. I-64 enters Alleghany County just east of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, and leaves it at the top of the mountain before it descends into Rockbridge County and Lexington, Virginia. Covington and Clifton Forge are its biggest towns. The Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad came in 1857 and the C & O Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge is open four days a week. The paper mill in Covington was establish in 1899 and continues to be the economic mainstay of the county. This book is part of the Images of America series so it consists primarily of photographs and captions. County schools were segregated until 1964, and this book has only a few photos of the county’s African-Americans. Despite the spectacular beauty of Alleghany County, this book consists almost entirely of pictures of buildings and groups of people assembled for pictures. The cover is a picture of Falling Springs Falls, before the face of the falls was mined and the course of the river was altered. The authors, Samuel Hale and Paul Linkenhoker, are the manager and vice president of the Alleghany Historical Society.


Kirk’s Civil War Raids Along the Blue Ridge by Michael C. Hardy. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2018. 192 pages with an Index, Notes, photos, and an Appendix, “The Role of African-Americans in the Border War.” Trade paperback, $21.99.

This book covers each year from 1861 to 1865 in the twelve counties on the Tennessee/North Carolina border from what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park north to the Virginia line followed by a chapter on the post-war period. Although the title emphasizes the role of George W. Kirk, a Greene County, Tennessee, native who lead important raids against Confederate bastions, this book does not really center on his fascinating and controversial life, with practically no mention of him until the chapters on 1864 and 1865 when he became quite active. On the last page the book does mention Kirk’s role as a North Carolina militia officer sent in the summer of 1870 to Alamance and Caswell Counties to quell Ku lux Klan violence and his departure late in life first to Tennessee where he again led state militia against the Ku Klux Klan and finally to California where he died and is buried. Michael C. Hardy has written twenty-two previous books about Western North Carolina where he moved in 1995 so his wife could attend graduate school at Appalachian State University.


Breaking the Appalachian Barrier: Maryland as the Gateway to Ohio and the West, 1750-1850 by John Hrastar. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2018. 255 pages with an index, Bibliography, Notes, and seventeen maps. Oversized trade paperback, $49.95.

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad went from Maryland right into present-day West Virginia all the way to Moundsville, and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal ended at Cumberland, Maryland. In contrast, the Great Valley Road, the Gist Trace, The Cumberland Road, and The National Road went from Maryland to Pennsylvania. All were engineering marvels and keys to settlement and development. John Hrastar worked in the aerospace industry, mostly for NASA, during his fifty-year career. Now retired, he lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he enjoys researching and writing about history.


A Baker’s Year: Twelve Months of Baking and Living the Simple Life at the Smoke Signals Bakery by Tara Jensen. New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2018. 208 pages with an Index and lots of full-page color photos and drawings by the author. Oversized hardback with pictorial cover, $25.99.

The Smoke Signals Bakery is located at 590 Bernard Road in Marshall, North Carolina. Its mission is to “inspire self-actualization through the craft of baking.” It features an outdoor wood-fired oven and gives workshops. Its core values are: THINK OF FLOUR AS FRESH PRODUCE. LEARN ONE RECIPE LIKE THE BACK OF YOUR HAND. ART AND SCIENCE ARE MEANT TO REINFORCE EACH OTHER, NOT UNDERMINE EACH OTHER. ALL BINARIES ARE FALSE. KEEP A JOURNAL / BE OBSERVANT. WORK IS THE ONLY TRUTH. LEARN TO TRUST. ENGAGE THE INTELLIGENCE OF YOUR BODY. VALUE THE ENTIRE PROCESS, NOT JUST THE FINAL RESULT. STRIVE, BUT TAKE BREAKS. KEEP A CLEAR MIND AND A CLEAN WORK SPACE. LIVED EXPERIENCE INFORMS TECHNIQUE. STRENGTH THROUGH DIVERSITY, NOT MONOCULTURE. BE A LITTLE WILD. Publisher’s Weekly enthused: “Jensen, who owns the Smoke Signals Bakery outside of Asheville, N.C., arranges this homey, down-to-earth book by month and intersperses her recipes with short essays that offer insight into her lifestyle and baking philosophy. . . Photos, illustrations, and pictures of the author’s handwritten baking journals evoke her comfortably solitary life. This cookbook will make even urban dwellers crave a night under the stars and a morning baking bread solo in a quiet, rustic kitchen.” Jenson has 100,000 followers on Instagram.


Lost Restaurants of Knoxville by Paula A. Johnson. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2017. 219 pages with a foreaord by Grady Regas, a Bibliography, and photos. Trade paperback, $21,99.

This is quite a book. It starts with Chisholm’s Tavern, established in the early 1790s by Patsy and John Chisholm. It was not only Knoxville’s first eatery, but also its first business. From there, Paula A. Johnson, the author, follows the history of Knoxville covering Cal Johnson who was born a slave in 1844 and was one of the wealthiest men in Tennessee when he died in 1925. Starting as a bartender who eventually owned a saloon, then two, then three saloons, then a racetrack. When prohibition shut down his saloons, he opened a movie theater and donated a building to house an African-American YMCA. His building that housed the Knoxville Overall Company is still standing. This book provides a fascinating window into Knoxville history in general and its foodways in particular. An East Tennessee native, Paula A. Johnson has led over 800 food tours of Knoxville and partnered with the University of Tennessee and WDVX to illuminate the city’s culinary history.


The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan. New York: Tyrant Books, 2017. 233 pages. 7” X 5.5” paperback, $16.95.

Of course anyone so egocentric and cutesy as to call one of his books, Crapalachia, would be insensitive enough to write a book about his marriage and divorce from a woman who has my sincere sympathy. I mean how wedded to male chauvinism does a man have to be to write smart-ass, stream-of-consciousness drivel about the mother of his children? Scott McClanahan lives in Beckley, West Virginia, and is the author of eight books. Last June Rolling Stone did an article entitled, “Scott McClanahan, Appalachian Literary Outsider, on his Harrowing Divorce Book.” Yes, he has attracted that kind of attention.


Appointed Rounds: Essays by Michael McFee. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2018. 222 pages. Trade paperback. $20.00.

This is a book of fifty essays ranging from one page in length to about twenty pages. It is the kind of book that is appropriate for the nightstand or even, dare I say meaning no disrespect, the bathroom. It is Michael McFee’s second prose book to go along with eleven volumes of poetry and two anthologies. His poetry has been recognized with a James Still Award of Writing About the Appalachian South from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. He grew up in a working class Asheville family but has transitioned into a career as a creative writing professor at the University of North Carolina. The title of this book was chosen because the topics elevate aspects of his everyday life. The subjects of these essays include “My Inner Hillbilly,” and other autobiographical works, “Gradebook” and others about teaching, and “Voice” along with others about the craft of writing as well as “Table of Contents,” one of a dozen about the book as a physical object. “Appointed Rounds, Michael McFee’s beautiful, funny and heartbreaking new book of essays, is part memoir, part cultural criticism, and part song of praise for books themselves as physical as well as literary objects. . . . It is a book to fall in love with not merely read.” – Alan Shapiro.


Legends, Secrets and Mysteries of Asheville by Marla Hardee Milling. Charleston, South Carolina: History Press, 2017. 169 pages with an Index, Bibliography, photos, and a Foreword by Jan Schocher. Trade paperback, $21.99.

This book has four parts: Secrets and Mysteries, Hidden Treasures, Legends of the Rich and Famous, and Surprising Creations. It is difficult to pick examples out of this book because there are so many, and the author does a really good job of providing historical context for the items and events she highlights. There are connections in Asheville to the Hope Diamond, Amelia Earhart, Vince Lombardi and Elvis. The contents of time capsules are revealed here, as well as some interesting Goodwill finds! This is the second book of the author, an Asheville native, after Only in Asheville: An Eclectic History also published by The History Press. After ten years as a news producer and six years promoting a nearby college, she became a free-lance writer in 2004 and has been able to support herself in this fashion ever since.


Wildflower Walks & Hikes: North Carolina Mountains by Jim Parham. Almond, North Carolina: Milestone Press, 2018. 239 pages with an Index, seven pertinent appendices, and replete with color maps and photos, including 300 color photographs of wildflowers. Trade paperback, $24.95.

This guidebook has the specific aim of helping you find wildflowers at their peak in the North Carolina Mountains. It surveys 59 walks and hikes illuminating everything you need to know, including their location their habitat, and their best seasons. This is an exemplary guidebook, and the irony is that you can tell from the pictures of the trails that each one would be spectacular even it there were not any wildflowers blooming at all! “Particularly rich in trails that aren't commonly covered, especially in the southwestern mountains. . . Parham's delineation [of] forest types that make the Southern Appalachians so biologically diverse permits easier flower identification by season and drives trail choices in ecosystems as varied as rich cove forests, grassy balds, spruce-fir zones, and more.” - WNC Magazine. Jim Parham has written fourteen guidebooks, most about mountain bike trails. He has worked several summers at Falling Creek Camp in Henderson County, North Carolina.


Battle Above the Clouds: Lifting the Siege of Chattanooga and the Battle of Lookout Mountain, October 16-November 24, 1863 by David A. Powell. El Dorado Hills, California: Savas Beatie, 2017. 169 pages with a Foreword by William Lee White, Suggested Reading, and several appendices. Trade paperback, $14.95.

This is David Powell’s sixth book about the Civil War in the Chattanooga area. It centers on the Battle on top of Lookout Mountain, but it also provides important context with an examination of the events leading up to this important battle. After the Union victories in the summer of 1863 at Vicksburg and Gettysburg, the Confederate Victory in September at Chickamauga, Georgia, on the outskirts of Chattanooga loomed large. Chattanooga, one of the most important transportation hubs in the South, was surrounded and beginning to starve. Lookout Mountain looms steeply above Chattanooga, and Major General Joseph Hooker’s assault of the mountain was not only crucial in protecting the Union’s important occupation of Chattanooga, it was an act of tremendous courage. The Union victory was not just improbable, it was a key to Union momentum during 1863. David A. Powell has a history degree from Virginia Military Institute. He lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago where he runs a specialized delivery firm.


Summoning the Dead: Essays on Ron Rash edited by Randall Wilhelm and Zachary Vernon. Columbia: The University of South Carolina Press, 2018. 243 pages with an Index and a Foreword by Robert Morgan. Hardback with pictorial cover, $49.99.

The seventeen authors who have contributed critical essays to this collection include three well-known regional scholars, Jesse Graves, Erica Abrams Locklear, and John Lang. as well as academics from regional Universities, Western Carolina, Eastern Mennonite, and Appalachian State as well as Union College and from European universities in Denmark and France. Here you will find Ron Rash compared and contrasted with the Southern Agrarians, James Dickey, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Morgan, Eudora Welty, and William Shakespeare. And you will learn about the role of the Civil War, food, gender and ecology in Ron Rash’s literary work. “Ron Rash has become one of the most important Appalachian writers. This collection will establish the terms for discussing Rash’s work for the next generation of readers.” – David A. Davis. “Over the past fifteen years, Ron Rash has become not just a great writer, but one of a tiny handful of artists indispensable to our understanding not only of Appalachia, but to all of America. In Summoning the Dead, Wilhelm and Vernon have assembled a brilliantly illuminating skeleton key to Rash’s work” – Mark Powell. Randall Wilhelm teaches English at Anderson University. This is his second book about the work of Ron Rash. Zackary Vernon teaches English at Appalachian State University.



Specter Mountain by Jesse Graves and William Wright. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2018. 67 pages with an introduction by Robert Morgan. Trade paperback, $16.00.

Wait! By Jesse Graves AND William Wright??? No, it isn’t half and half, divided in two by some Graves poems and some Wright poems. These are poems that these two poets collaborated to create! The whole enterprise is adroitly and succinctly summarized by Robert Morgan, their elder and one of America’s most celebrated contemporary poets who, like Graves, has deep roots in rural Appalachia. I don’t think I will be giving away too much, if I tell you that one of the voices employed by this dynamic duo is the mountain itself and that it is called “Specter” Mountain because it is haunted, though that certainly does not figure into all the poems here. Jesse Graves grew up in Union County, Tennessee, and now is Poet-in-Residence at East Tennessee State University. William Wright grew up in the Carolina Piedmont and teaches at Emory University.


Darwin’s Breath by Connie Jordan Green. Oak Ridge, Tennessee: Iris Press: 2018. 104 pages. Trade paperback, $16.00.

In the first poem in this, Connie Jordan Green’s second collection after two chapbooks, she surveys the Cumberland Mountains to the north and west and the Smokies to the south and east from her farm home in Loudon County, Tennessee. She wonders about the evolution of the land and its creatures and ends with the question: “How then to speak/ of the soul, wish for its whisper/as we skirt the ordinary,/ waking, sleeping, waking,/ our lives deepening into dust?/. One of the unifying themes of this collection is the gardens in the poet’s life, in Eastern Kentucky as a child, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where her family moved for work, and on the Loudon County farm where she has lived most of her adult life. “Darwin's Breath connects us to those who have come before--Neruda, Oliver, grandmothers, fathers, grapevines, and rocks. It rises ‘like mushrooms after rain’ or ‘dough my mother pinched into rolls’ to illustrate a lifetime of growth. A life, here, measured not in coffee spoons but tea cups, potato parings, spelling lists, and clods of broken earth--over which the gardener kneels knowing that gain is always two parts loss. -Amy Wright. “The poems in Connie Jordan Green's collection, Darwin's Breath, remind me of the wisdom found in the work of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry, which understands that looking clearly at the world and offering an accurate rendering of its natural processes remains the poet's truest calling. Green offers extremely well-made poems about making, suffused with the pleasures of craft and quality work. Connie Jordan Green's poems invite the reader to inhabit them, and to share in their quest for the fullness of life.”--Jesse Graves


Lyrics: Cherokee Voices: A Spoken Soundtrack by the Trail of Tears Women by Janice Kephart. San Francisco: Blurb Publishing: 2018. 24 pages with full-page and partial page color and black-and-white drawings and photos. Hardback with dust jacket, 12” X12,” $97.99. Oversized paperback, $29.99.

This book is huge in size – one foot square – and in ambition and in execution. A companion c.d. will be released later this year. The heart of this book is seven poems, each about a page long (and these are big pages). They are each designed to convey the experiences of Cherokee women on the Trail of Tears when they were removed from the Southern Appalachian Mountains to Oklahoma by the U. S. Army in the 1830s at the command of President Andrew Jackson after the U. S. Supreme Court ruled that their removal was unlawful. The first poem and several of the illustrations are a tribute to the author’s grandfather, Horace Kephart (1862-1931) a St. Louis librarian who abandoned his family to live in Swain County, North Carolina, in the Smoky Mountain, and who write Our Southern Highlanders (1913), and books about camping and woodcraft and a pamphlet about the Cherokees who he admired and respected. Each poem is preceded by a prose introduction. A graduate of Duke and Villanova Law School, Janice Kephart has had a strikingly diverse career as a counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the 9/11 Commission, as a entrepreneur in the field of identity security, and as a musician and spoken-word recording artist.


The Nature of Things: Poems of Flora and Protest by Helen Matthews Lewis. Oak Ridge, Tennessee: Iris Press, 2018. 37 pages with color illustrations by Patricia Beaver. Trade paperback, $14.00

Helen Matthews Lewis is so prominent in our region as an activist that the Appalachian Studies Association has named its community service award after her. Her autobiography, also completed with appropriate help from Patricia Beaver, was published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2012. Yet, publishing poetry is a rather late endeavor for her. I’m proud that I published her first poems – reprinted here – when I was editor of Appalachian Heritage. Now 93 years old, Dr. Helen Lewis got her start as an activist for civil rights and labor as an undergraduate in her home state of Georgia. Her masters thesis is on the connections between the women’s movement and Black liberation, and her doctoral dissertation is on coal mining families. In addition to being a sociology professor, she has worked for Appalshop, Highlander and an array of other activist organizations. She now lives in the ElderSpirit Community in Abingdon, Virginia. Patricia Beaver is retired from directing the masters program in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University.


Every Species of Hope: Georgics, Haiku, and Other Poems by Michael J. Rosen. Columbus: Trillium/Ohio State University Press, 2017. 90 pages illustrated by line drawings by the author. Trade paperback, $19.95.

Michael J. Rosen lives on a 100-acre farm he calls Hopewell Springs which he describes as being “in the foothills of the Appalachians” in his native Ohio. It has inspired these poems, some of which were initially published in such prestigious periodicals as The Yale Review and The Paris Review. “These tender, strange, and beautiful glimpses of nature contain a delightful blend of artistry and dappled light” – Diana Ackerman. Rosen has published over 150 books, including six dozen for children and many anthologies, yet this is his first poetry book in twenty years and his third since garnering an MFA at Columbia in 1981. In addition to creating books, he loves to visit schools and sell the pottery he makes. For twenty years he worked on restoring James Thurber’s Columbus home, editing his uncollected work, and creating public programs there.



Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips. New York: W. W. Norton, a 2017 paperback reprint of a 2016 release. 310 pages with an Index, Notes, photos, and a New Afterword that was not in the hardback. Trade paperback, $21.95.

The New York Times Book Review included this book on their list of 100 notable books first published in 2016, and it garnered numerous other awards. Congressman John Lewis called it “a vital investigation of Forsyth’s history, and of the process by which racial injustice is perpetuated in America.” Blood at the Root centers on the events that culminated in 1912 with a lynching, the execution of two innocent Black teenagers, and the forcible expulsion of Forsyth County’s entire Black population. The book puts all this in context, beginning with the removal of the Cherokee from North Georgia in the 1830s, and it follows the story up to the 1987 Ku Klux Klan march in Forsythe County, just north of Atlanta. “Nothing undermines social justice more than our collective ignorance about the racial terrorism that haunts too many places in America. Blood at the Root is a must-read, thorough, detailed, and powerful. It’s a story we need to know and never forget.” Bryan Stevenson. “Meticulously and elegantly reveals the power of white supremacy . . . to distort and destroy, not only lives and accomplishments, but historical memory, the law, and basic human civility” – Carol Anderson. The author, Patrick Phillips, grew up in Forsyth County. He is a poet and professor who now lives in Brooklyn.



Murdoch’s Curse: A Saga of Western North Carolina by Jerry Jacover. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Yorkshire Publishing, a 2017 reprint of a 2012 release. Trade paperback, $ 19.99.

This is a novel, but it borders closely on autobiography and on history. The characters at the opening of the novel resemble the author and his wife, Judi, who enjoyed visiting the North Carolina Mountains so much that they built a cabin in Madison County. In the process of tracing back the title to the land they bought, the Jacover’s began to explore the history and literature of the area. At the end of the novel, Jacover provides a paragraph each about fourteen historical people who figure in this novel along with the fictional characters. It begins with Thor Thorvald a Norse explorer and ends with Joe Holcombe, a Confederate soldier. Jacover also includes a bibliography of 37 books he consulted in an effort to make this novel as authentic as possible. “This engaging novel is not only fast paced and funny, but deeply touching.” – Scot Turow. “An engaging portrait of the variety of cultures that became the melting pot that Appalachia is. Strong, independent, and resourceful characters travel through time on a journey that lands them in a land that requires a mixture of faith and fearlessness to tame, protect, and honor.” – Laura Boosinger.   Jerry Jecover is an intellectual property lawyer in Chicago.


Small Treasons by Mark Powell. New York, Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster, a 2018 paperback edition of a 2017 release. 384 pages. Trade paperback, $16.95.

“There is no doubt about it, Powell has established himself as a voice not only of Appalachia, but of all contemporary American Literature.” – Southern Literary Review. Set in the mountains of North Georgia, this novel, Powell’s fifth, is the story of Tess and John Maynard, a couple with three young children haunted not only by domestic stresses but also by John’s former life overseas as a CIA operative and the way that international events can penetrate deeply into America. “Both richly regional and ambitiously international in scope, Small Treasons probes the murky depths of a troubled marriage, moving between the personal and the political with lyrical ease. Powell’s characters—flawed, contemplative, and viscerally alive—pine for meaningful communication as they struggle to ground their identities in a complex world . . .” – Julia Elliott. “You find yourself wanting to believe in Powell’s characters because he turns them into townspeople of your unconscious by the power of his art.” – Pat Conroy. “A story rich and intricate, propulsive and satisfying. Mark Powell has been the South’s best-kept secret for far too long.” – David Joy. “What a marvelous novel.” – Ron Rash. Mark Powell grew up in the South Carolina Blue Ridge, did his undergraduate work at the Citadel, and received graduate degrees in English at USC and religion at Yale. He teaches English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.