Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The United States of Appalachia

Don't get too excited - I was just sitting around, feeling kinda' awesome, dancing occassionally, and I remembered this: a blog entry I dropped into my other blog on the The United States of Appalachia. Consider:

The first words after Jeff Biggers' dedication were the first snippets of non-dinosaurian Latin I ever learned.

Montani semper liberi.

Mountaineers are always free.

You had me at hello, Mr. Biggers.

A man named Jeff Biggers, a man who is not from Our Mountains (though some of his folk were), has written a book which, if you are from Appalachia, you must read. Let me tell you why.

Its not because of the history Mr. Biggers showers his readers with, though he does that. It is not because of Mr. Biggers' truly fantastic prose, though his prose is truly fantastic. And its not because his work is like a master bibliography, a guide to paths by which every Appalachian might know him- or herself, though it is that too.

No. If you are Appalachian you need to read Mr. Biggers' The United States of Appalachiaanywhere else if you're, like me, from West Virginia. Its only equal I've read along these lines, though in a radically different medium, is Denise Giardina's Storming Heaven.

I feel obliged to give some sort of critique, to balance the record. I have only two. One, if you edit your work, Mr. Biggers, please tell the world about Bluefield - I know its not all that important anymore, but its not a bad place, and we do have a Nobel Prize winner. Two, if you edit your work, Mr. Biggers, please tell the world about the Melungeons - their story is as Appalachian as anyone's and they need a storyteller very, very badly.

Delightful.
because it will give you back a dignity that you never even knew you'd lost. You need to read this book, you need to tell your friends to read this book. You'll feel happy and sad, angry and proud. You'll find yourself cursing your "history" and "civics" books (damn all colonizers who convince the colonized they are responsible for their discontent) . You won't lie and say you're from Richmond if you're from Roanoke, Charlotte if you're from Asheville, Cincinnati if you're from anywhere in Kentucky, and anywhere else if you're, like me, from West Virginia. Its only equal I've read along these lines, though in a radically different medium, is Denise Giardina's Storming Heaven.

I feel obliged to give some sort of critique, to balance the record. I have only two. One, if you edit your work, Mr. Biggers, please tell the world about Bluefield - I know its not all that important anymore, but its not a bad place, and we do have a Nobel Prize winner. Two, if you edit your work, Mr. Biggers, please tell the world about the Melungeons - their story is as Appalachian as anyone's and they need a storyteller very, very badly.

Delightful.


I just thought that was worth sharing again. . . hope ya'll don't mind.

3 comments:

the Contrary Goddess said...

Both these books go on my find 'em to read 'em list. The only really insightful book I've ever found on the Appalachian experience is Caudell's Night Comes to the Cumberland. So, I'm definitely interested. Thanks.

CM Edwards said...

Excellent book! I just finished it myself. I like Mr. Bigger's thinking: Appalachia doesn't need to be defended, it just needs more defenders.

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