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November 2018 Reviews

November 2018 Reviews

YOUNG ADULT AND CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Backyard Bears: Conservation, Habitat Changes, and the Rise of Urban Wildlife by Amy Cherrix. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2018. 73 pages with an Index, Selected Bibliography, Notes, Glossary, and full-color photographs throughout. 9.25” X 11.25” hardback in dust jacket, $18.99

This is a Junior Library Guild Selection especially appropriate for middle and high schoolers. It is part of a “Scientists in the Field” series emphasizing “where science meets adventure.” It follows scientists in Asheville, North Carolina, who capture urban bears there. "Another inviting example of scientific field work in a consistently appealing series."--Kirkus, starred review. "The book capably combines the you-are-there immediacy of charting bear behaviors with surprising facts about bears (NC bears don’t do full hibernation; bear pregnancy involves “delayed implantation,” which means months between the conception and the implantation of the embryo) and illuminating information about how humans can best coexist with bears."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.​ The author is a bookstore worker in Asheville.

 

The Summer Between by Anne G’Fellers-Mason. Jonesborough, Tennessee: Mountain Gap Books, 2018. 267 pages. Trade paperback, $16.95.

The “summer between” is the summer between high school and college. This is a youth novel that cleverly realizes that young people like to read about kids who are a little older than themselves. It has a You Tube playlist on the web which you can easily access with a google search. The protagonist, Brendon, begins the summer super cocky, but his experiences teach him that he is much more vulnerable than he thought. The author, Anne G’Fellers-Mason, is a native of Upper East Tennessee who lives in Jonesborough. She did her undergraduate work at Mars Hill, got a masters at East Tennessee State and an MFA at Hollins. She works for Heritage Alliance.

 

Rhea Wells: Boy of Jonesborough by Brenda M. G’Fellers. Jonesborough, Tennessee: Mountain Gap Books, 2018. 32 page pages with photographs on every page. 8” X 10” paperback, $9.95.

This is really a picture book for all ages. It lays out the life and career of Rhea Wells (1891-1962)in a very straight forward manner enhanced by appropriate photos. Wells grew up on a farm near Jonesborough, Tennessee, until he was ten when he moved to Alabama. He returned to East Tennessee to go to Maryville College and then became a set designer in New York City and an author and illustrator of several books.  He retired to Jonesborough where he contributed to the town in many ways as a professional in art, literature, and the theater.

 

Lorraine: The Girl Who Sang the Storm Away by Ketch Secor. Napierville, Illinois: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2018. 32 page children’s picture book illustrated in full color on every page by Higgins Bond. 10.75” X 9.75” hardback in dust jacket, $17.99.

 This is a truly delightful and endearing children’s picture book, very professionally put together, that deserves a wide readership. The author, Ketch Secor is a white man who founded the band, Old Crow Medicine Show while living in East Tennessee where he absorbed folktales that inspired him to write this book. He now lives in Nashville and works in film and music as well as literature. Given the name of his band, we are not surprised that a crow is a character in this book. The illustrator is an African-American woman, Higgins Bond, who also lives in Nashville. Among her honors is the Asley Bryan Award for contributions to children’s literature and being the first African-American woman to have a commissioned painting made into a U.S. postage stamp. Not surprisingly, the human characters in his book are an African-American girl living in the East Tennessee hills and her Pa Paw.

 

FICTION

 

Cleaning House by Jeanne G’Fellers. Jonesborough, Tennessee: Mountain Gap Books, 2018. 285 pages. Trade paperback, $16.95.

This is book 1 in the author’s Appalachian Elementals Series.  In “A Note from the Author” at the beginning of the book, she states, “Cleaning House embraces the queer Appalachian experience, a unique blending of resistance, acceptance and perseverance. We, like the rest of Appalachia, are as hearty as they come . . . “ The lesbian protagonist of this novel is Centenary Rhodes. Cent grew up in East Tennessee, but escaped to Chicago at the age of eighteen until her great aunt, Tess, asks her to return to prepare the old homestead for the real estate market. What could possibly go wrong? "While this story is full of beautiful, wonderful queerness in all its glory, it isn't limited to that. It's also about taking care of each other and the earth; it's about coming home; it's about family of origin and chosen family; and it's about standing up against the forces of destruction all around us.” – A. M. Leibowitz. "I'd recommend Cleaning House to readers who enjoy an interesting story of elemental and other magic that has complex characters and explores sexuality, gender, and a person's sense of self." - Anne Barwell.
 

Mama, Me, & the Holiday Tree by Jeanne G’Fellers. Jonesborough, Tennessee: Mountain Gap Books, 2018. 61 pages. Trade paperback, $6.99.

This is book 1.5 in the author’s Appalachian Elementals Series. Like book one, Centenary Rhodes is the protagonist and still living in Washington County, Tennessee. At the center of this book is Cent’s relationship with her mother who, until this Christmas season, has been very reluctant to accept that her daughter is a lesbian.  “ . . . everything about this story screamed of love and home and acceptance and magic. This is a book that will stay with you long after you have finished reading.” H. M. Gooden. “Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, science fiction and fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers . . . lives in Northeast Tennessee with their spouse and five crazy felines.

Firefly Hollow by T. L. Haddix. London, Kentucky: Streetlight Graphics Publishing, a 2018 third edition of a 2012 release. 345 pages. Trade paperback, $12.99.

L. Haddix grew up in Perry County, Kentucky, and graduated from C. Dilce Combs High School there. This is the third edition of this book which, in 2012 began the Firefly Hollow series. It has been followed by nine other books in this series. Haddix has also written eight books in the Shadow Collection Series and two more under the Mallory Love pseudonym. This series is how she has chosen to illuminate the supernatural stories with which she was raised. It is set in Eastern Kentucky in the 1960s when Sarah Browning is forced to come home from college because of a tragic death in the family. Haddix wants readers to know that it is not "a typical paranormal romance" although it is at heart a romance.

 

Home to McCarron’s Corner: Lily’s Story by Sharon K. Middleton. Castroville, Texas: Black Rose Writing, 2018. 221 pages. Trade paperback, $16.95.

In this novel, Lily Van Der Houghton, a newly licensed physician, goes hiking to Jacks River Falls in North Georgia. Lily gets lost and falls into a hole in time into 1763 when Cherokees were living there. She learns of a prophecy by tribal elders and their hope that someone would come from Beyond to insure their prophetic vision. "A tale with an intriguing historical setting and time-travel premise..." – Kirkus Reviews. The author, Sharon K. Middleton, is a fourth generation Texas and an attorney who hopes to retire in North Georgia.

 

Yellow Stonefly by Tim Poland. Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2018. 266 pages. Hardback in dust jacket. $26.95.

Sandy Holston, the protagonist of this novel, is a nurse who is an expert at fly-fishing the Ripshin River near her mountain home. James Keefe, her much older off-and-on lover, is threatened with dementia, and Sandy’s life is disrupted by a survivalist intent on hunting a mountain lion. “Although fly fishing informs and shapes Yellow Stonefly and its characters, the book is above all about love and death, anger, redemption, and finding a family and a home.” – Robert DeMott. “In evocative, elegant prose, Tim Poland brings into fine detail the particulars of place and the characters who cascade and swirl with the stream they live near. Like an artfully tied fly, this novel is full of craft, color, and anticipation for the pleasure it brings.” – Rick Van Noy. The author, Tim Poland, is a recently retired Radford University English professor who still lives near Radford University in Virginia.

 

NON-FICTION

 

The Politics of Appalachian Rhetoric by Amanda E. Hayes.  Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2018. 231 pages with an Index, Bibliography, and Notes. Trade paperback, $29.99.

This book examines how people in Appalachia speak and write, reaching back historically into our cultural heritage. She combines her scholarship with storytelling and autobiography, as she moves from considering how we express ourselves to the impact that has upon our education. “In this book, Hayes takes a critical approach in her examination of traditional writing pedagogy and its tendency toward resistance to Appalachian rhetoric, which has a complex history worth exploring. Teachers of writing—particularly those in rural Appalachia—will benefit from Hayes’s important work. This exciting book fills a need for more conversation about what constitutes Appalachian rhetoric and why teachers at all levels should know more about it to better understand the diverse voices their students bring to the classroom.” - Amy D. Clark. The author, Amanda E. Hayes, grew up on a farm in the Ohio hill country and attended college at Ohio University’s Eastern campus and then graduate school at their main campus. She is an assistant professor at Kent State, Tuscarawas.

 

Emily Prudden and Her Schools by Phoebe Pollitt. Columbia, South Carolina: Create Space Independent Publishing Platford, 2018. 152 pages. Trade paperback, $10.00.

Emily Prudden (1832-1917), who became permanently deaf from the age of seventeen, was a Connecticut native who raised her late sister’s son and daughter and cared for her widowed mother as a young and middle-aged woman. At the age of fifty she became a housemother at Brainerd Institute in Chester, South Carolina. Two years later she acquired fifty acres in Gaston County, North Carolina, and founded Jones Seminary, which later became Linwood College. Subsequently she founded schools at Blowing Rock, Saluda, Elk Park, Lawndale, Mill Springs, Hudson, Lick Mountain, Cedar Valley, and Brevard. In 1888 she established Lincoln Academy nearby for African-American females. She also founded schools for African-Americans at Elk Park, Lawndale,  Golden, and Uree, In all, she founded fifteen schools, ten for whiles and five for African-Americans, before she retired in 1909 to Blowing Rock. The school at Lick Mountain has become the present-day Pfeiffer College, and other schools she founded were incorporated into county school systems. It was estimated that before she died, over 10,000 students had been educated at schools she established. This book is the first book-length study of Emily Prudden and the schools she founded. The author, Dr. Phoebe A. Pollitt serves in the Nursing Department at Appalachians State University. She is also the author of African American Hospitals in North Carolina and African American and Cherokee Nurses in Appalachia.

 

Ramp Hollow:The Ordeal of Appalachia by Steven Stoll. New York: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux: a 2018 paperback reprint of a 2017 release.  410 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, and photos. Trade paperback, $17.00.

This is one of the most important books about Appalachia in the last decade. In a nutshell, he takes Harriette Arnow’s thesis that 19th Century Appalachia was a land of relatively equal yeoman farmers and Wilma Dunaway’s antithesis that Appalachia has always been integrated into American capitalism and establishes a synthesis around his concept of a makeshift economy. Importantly he expands upon the central concept of Kathryn Newfont’s Blue Ridge Commons emphasizing how important common ground is to sustaining smallholders, and how devastating the appropriation of common ground has been to freeholders throughout the world. Not since Rodger Cunningham’s Apples on the Flood has a book about Appalachia incorporated an international perspective so thoroughly.  "Stunning . . . Everything the real hillbillies wanted [J.D]. Vance to acknowledge is laid out majestically . . . Ramp Hollow offers a granular chronicle of how wealth, poverty and inequality accrete, layer upon generational layer . . . [It] should be read . . . for the compassion and historical attention that Mr. Stoll devotes to this long-maligned region . . ." ―Beth Macy. "In this sweeping, provocative study, Steven Stoll comes to the defense of American pioneers and smallholders everywhere. Focusing on the mountaineers of West Virginia, Stoll argues that a largely successful household mode of production, connected to a larger ecological commons, was not isolated and backwards until it was impoverished by industrial invasion. He ties the undermining of Appalachia highlanders back to the enclosing of early-modern Britain, and to the continuing dispossession of African smallholders today." ―Brian Donahue. "In Ramp Hollow, Steven Stoll has written both a scholarly masterpiece about the history of dispossessed men and women and a profoundly humane critique of capitalism in the present as well as the past. Anyone who reads this book will never think about the people who live in 'coal country' the same way again." ―Michael Kazin. "A deep and moving chronicle of dispossession, Steven Stoll's Ramp Hollow manages, like no other account I have seen, to combine a subtle understanding of Appalachian subsistence practices with a global understanding of the importance of the commons. Erudite, conceptually powerful, magnificently documented, and deeply sympathetic, Ramp Hollow is an instant classic of agrarian history." ―James C. Scott. The author, Steven Stoll, is a formidable scholar who grew up in Southern California and did his undergraduate work at Berkeley. He received a master's degree and a doctorate in history from Yale. He has taught throughout his career at Fordham. This is his fifth book from a major publisher.

 

POETRY

 

Eureka Mill by Ron Rash. Spartanburg, South Carolina: Hub City Press, a 20th Anniversary Edition, 2018, of a 1998 release. 63 pages with a new Foreword by Robert Morgan and a new Author’s Note by the poet. Trade paperback, $14.95.

The Eureka Mill was a cotton mill in Chester, South Carolina, that was torn down in 2014. It is where Ron Rash’s parents met in 1948 not only as fellow workers there, but also as fellow members of North Carolina mountain farm families who had moved back and forth from the mountains to the mills for generations. While sacrificing nothing in lyrical value, these are narrative poems that tell the story of mill life for mountaineers. "Every now and then a book comes along that transports us so thoroughly to another time and another way of life that, when we finally put it down, our own lives don't quite look the same. It is even more remarkable if the book is set where we live, a place we thought we'd been." – Asheville Citizen-Times. After establishing an enviable reputation in poetry, Ron Rash went on to short stories and novels. His six story collections are high-lighted by Burning Bright which won the 2010 Frank O’Connor award as the best collection written in the English language that year! His four novels include Serena which was a 2009 PEN/Faulkner finalist and a New York Times best-seller that was made into a Hollywood movie. Ron Rash teaches at Western Carolina University.