The river in this title is the New River, and the writers (and readers and educators) by it are those attracted to the Highland Summer Conference (HSC) held for the last 40+ years at Radford University not far from the unique and beautiful New River. This book offers a great way to get a feel for Appalachian literature from the time it first became known as a sub-genre until the present because the HSC is one of the most vital anchors of the super structure of Appalachian literature. What a good place to gain perspective on its tragedies and triumphs, its scintillating and occasionally just a little scurrilous repartee, and its overall development. Each summer, those who want to teach and learn Appalachian literature, make it part of school curricula, and write it have gathered for a couple of weeks on the Radford University campus to concentrate on every aspect of it. Grace Toney Edwards, who ran the HSC for twenty-seven years, is the kind of person who others gravitate toward, so when the idea for this book was presented, it was a foregone conclusion that gathered here would be found a broad, diverse, and distinguished group of regional writers. I just opened this book up to a random page - #54 – and there George Ella Lyon shared that she began writing her poem that has gone around the world inspiring more poems than perhaps any other in world history – “Where I’m From.” She tells us that the week before she wrote her three-page entry for this book, she received twenty-six “Where I’m From” poems from a teacher in Parma, Italy. Her essay argues that the HSC elicits three words from her: community, generosity, and magic. If I didn’t already know it, George Ella would have convinced me. And if I wasn’t already planning to read this book cover-to-cover, George Ella would have convinced me of that, as well.
Jefferson, North Carolina, Mcfarland, 2021. 259 pages with an Index and photos. Trade paperback.