Apparently, in this title, DIY means “do it yourself.” I don’t think that’s very appropriate there, BUT, I like pretty much everything else about this book. I even approve of the ways that author Slifer mentions and quotes me on eight pages of the book. The Appalachian Movement Press was a collective that printed pamphlets that advanced the social movements of the southern mountain region in the 1970s. It was a crucial part of the infrastructure that supported social action during that decade when Appalachian activists arguably accomplished as much or more than any other group of predominantly European Americans from any American region have accomplished since the Civil War. In 1972, Arnold Miller was elected the President of the United Mine Workers in a reform campaign whose courage was evident from the fact that the incumbent he was running against was later convicted of hiring the murder of his previous opponent along with the opponent’s wife and daughter. Of Miller’s running mates on his reform ticket, one is the current President of the AFL-CIO, and another is the current President of the United Mine Workers. Earlier that year, Miller was one of the leaders of the movement that secured the Black Lung Compensation Bill. In 1977 working class Appalachian activists saw President Jimmy Carter sign two laws. One regulated strip mining, and the other secured better health and safety provisions for deep miners. These laws, like the black lung bill, brought not only better health and safety, but also money and economic development into the coalfields. When I consider the importance of any group of pamphleteers, like the Appalachian Movement Press, I am reminded not only of an American tradition going back to Thomas Paine, but also of conversations I’ve had over the decades with Wendell Berry in which he has consistently brought up that need. Shaun Flier does an excellent job of putting the Appalachian Movement Press into context and following its accomplishments, including reprinting a couple of its pamphlets in their entirety. “So Much to Be Angry About is an example of the best impulses of people’s history, careful and caring in its attention to people and places, disposing of nothing, casting a loving and critical eye and turning over stones, not just of movement history and its ideas, but also of the labor of the craftspeople, artists, and makers whose work spurs us on but sometimes goes without examination. I love how this book traces generational knowledge, complete with lessons, pitfalls, dynamism, and complication for those of us currently making and joining community, art, and resistance in Appalachia.” Madeline ffitch. “The Appalachian Movement Press has been an inspiration for almost everything we do. An activist press focused on labor and art, and it was based in West Virginia? That’s something we all need to hear about! Especially anyone unpacking the region’s deep history of exploitation.” Dwight and Liz Pavlovic. “This is a history of Appalachian Movement Press and also a fascinating look into Appalachian history, regional radical politics, and print history. The fire of creation can be passed down through books like So Much to Be Angry About, and maybe this retelling of AMP’s story could spark something else like it down the line.” Lucas Church. The author, Shaun Slifer is a museum professional based in Pittsburgh.
Morgantown: West Virginia University Press, 2021. 279 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, Appendix, and illustrations. 7.5” X 9.25” trade paperback.