No figure in Appalachian Literature is more compelling than Emma Bell Miles (1879-1919). Before she died of tuberculosis, she lived a subsistence life on Signal Mountain above Chattanooga with her husband, Frank, who had a hard time finding and keeping jobs, and her five children, one of whom died of scarlet fever. A keen naturalist, a talented artist, and a gifted writer, Emma Bell Miles almost single-highhandedly supported her family by selling her sketches, poems, and stories. In 1905 she published, The Spirit of the Mountains, the first book to provide an overview of the Southern Appalachian culture. The seventeen stories collected here were published in national magazines across the country between the years 1908 and 1921. Their poetic prose and insight into individuals and their culture shines throughout. The editor is Grace Toney Edwards, one of the lynch pens of Appalachian Studies and Professor Emeritus at Radford University who for years ran their Appalachian Center and their Highland Summer Conference. She did the tough work of finding these stories, and she wrote the eloquent and information introduction emphasizing the nascent feminism of the Miles perspective.
Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2016. 231 pages with illustrations by Emma Bell Miles and family photographs. Trade paperback.