Bluestalking Reader: The Folksy, Home-spun Side

I didn’t realize I had so much home-grown in me before. I saw traces of it pop up occasionally, most notably when I’m able to flawlessly imitate the southern accent (no, don’t ask me to do it, inspiration must strike me first). The fact is, I’m starting to gravitate a little toward Appalachia. Not literally or anything, but in the sense I’ve recently booked two programs here at my library based or inspired at least partly by things Appalachian, awakening me to the fact I must have some sort of latent interest in this subject.

Who knew?

For those outside the U.S., you may not fully realize what Appalachia means. To people inside, you may not actually, either, to be fair. Generally, when  you mention Appalachia one pictures the garden variety of hillbilly, people with bad (or no) teeth swinging off porches built on houses that sit precariously on the sides of wooded hills. Generally these people are connected with home-brewed alcohol, and the picture’s completed when you add a whole-grain “still” to the mix.

If you’ve been in the Smoky Moutains area you’ll have seen the cabins/shacks I’m talking about, but even if you haven’t I’ll bet it’s not hard to picture huge, overall-clad families sitting on shaky, wooden porches blowing into empty jugs to make music. While that’s really neat and all, I also think we shouldn’t get too blinded by the stereotype. And I don’t just say that because my paternal family line filtered through Appalachia, specifically the Carolinas. I may not be quite as personally fired up to stress the need to balance otherwise, but even without that I’d like to think the culture would still interest me.

Okay, possibly.unitedstatesofappalachia

I’ve recently  booked author Jeff Biggers to come speak at our library. Jeff wrote a book titled United States of Appalachia: How Southern Mountaineers Brought Independence, Culture and Enlightenment to America. The man has a string of credentials about as long as my arm, but what probably sealed the deal was the fact he’s been an NPR (National Public Radio) commentator. The quality coming out of NPR is just huge, so there’s no doubt in my mind Mr. Biggers will be a stellar speaker.

On his website there’s information on the book he’s coming here to talk about specifically, In the Sierra Madre (Mexico’s Copper Canyon). While here he’ll talk about travel writing, as well, and other matters he knows an awful lot about. While this is pretty far away from the subject of Appalachia, his other book lands him squarely in that realm.
The other Appalachian-related/inspired program I booked will happen in May. This one centers on the music of that region and will feature video accompaniment and clog dancing.

Yes, clog dancing. In the Chicago suburbs. Won’t you be sorry you missed
that.

We’ll be a-hootin’ and a-hollerin’ that day, at least as much as one does so in a library setting. And, if you’re wondering, I will bring my camera. so keep on the lookout.

9 thoughts on “Bluestalking Reader: The Folksy, Home-spun Side

  1. Lisa, an Appalachian writer who is a favorite at the National Storytelling Festival in Tennessee is Sheila Kay Adams.
    http://www.jimandsheila.com/SheilasPages/SheilaHome.html
    She and her husband are also musicians, and their Christmas CD has become one of my favorites. She comes from a long line of Appalachian storytellers and as you can imagine, she tells and writes great stories.
    I think you would like her, if you don’t already know her work.

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  2. Lisa – you certainly have the knack of posting about such diverse and interesting things. The thought of clog dancing and hootin’ and hollerin’ in Chicago is a truly delightful one. One of my favourite pieces of music is Appalachian Spring by Copland.
    Your post has now triggered off a memory of a book I read many moons ago set in the Appalachian mountains about a young idealistic teacher who went to work there. Ah it is coming back to me now, I will hop off and look it up and come back when I have tracked it down. So, on with my clogs…

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  3. Elaine

    It was Christy by Catherine Marshall. I see that there was a TV series in the US of this. I note that Tyne Daly of Cagney and Lacey fame was in this and can guess which part she played and also am feeling glad I never saw it!! Does anybody else remember reading this book? I see it is still in print in paperback but I remember it when it came out and had a big hardback borrowed from the library. Have not thought about this book in years

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  4. Elaine, I’ve heard of Christy but I’ve never read it. A lot of girls read this when I was a teenager, but somehow I missed it. I wonder if it’s the sort of book that would hold up well for an adult readership?

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  5. Christy was originally published as an adult novel but even though I have never seen the TV series it looks to me like a folksy edition of Anne of Green Gables. The book was essentially religious, being the story of a young girl on a missionary journey. I shall have to get hold of it and see what I think and if it still holds up

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  6. I consider myself a hillbilly. The county I grew up in was known as the Moonshine Capital of the World. When I was a kid, my cousins and I used to ride our horses past what was left of a still after the ATF officers had gotten hold of it.

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  7. Susan, I’m a redneck! I’m from Mississippi. My great-grandmother reportedly used to make moonshine, though, so maybe I’m a combination redneck/hillbilly. There’s a fine line there, somewhere…

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