Something's Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal
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Something’s Rising collects oral histories from a diverse group of individuals from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia who are fighting mountaintop removal, an ecologically devastating form of coal mining. Taken together, these voices stand as a testament of what it means to be an Appalachian and demonstrate the value of preserving a culture’s history and spirit through the stories of its people. The authors have chosen twelve unique voices including Jean Ritchie, the “mother of folk,” who doesn’t let her eighty-six years slow down her fighting spirit; Judy Bonds, a tough-talking coal miner’s daughter; Kathy Mattea, the beloved country singer who believes that cooperation is the key to the battle; Larry Bush, who doesn’t back down even when speeding coal trucks are used to intimidate him; and Denise Giardina, the West Virginia writer who ran for governor to bring attention to the mountaintop removal issue. Written and edited by native sons of the mountains, these riveting, personal stories are captured in an original and highly readable book.
Like an old-fashioned hymn sung in rounds, Something’s Rising gives a stirring voice to the lives, culture, and determination of the people fighting the destructive practice of mountaintop removal in the coalfields of central Appalachia. Each person’s story, unique and unfiltered, articulates the hardship of living in these majestic mountains amid the daily desecration of the land by the coal industry because of America’s insistence on cheap energy. Developed as an alternative to strip mining, mountaintop removal mining consists of blasting away the tops of mountains, dumping waste into the valleys, and retrieving the exposed coal. This process buries streams, pollutes wells and waterways, and alters fragile ecologies in the region. The people who live, work, and raise families in central Appalachia face not only the physical destruction of their land but also the loss of their culture and health in a society dominated by the consequences of mountaintop removal. Included here are oral histories from Jean Ritchie, “the mother of folk,” who doesn’t let her eighty-six years slow down her fighting spirit; Judy Bonds, a tough-talking coal-miner’s daughter; Kathy Mattea, the beloved country singer who believes cooperation is the key to winning the battle; Jack Spadaro, the heroic whistle-blower who has risked everything to share his insider knowledge of federal mining agencies; Larry Bush, who doesn’t back down even when speeding coal trucks are used to intimidate him; Denise Giardina, a celebrated writer who ran for governor to bring attention to the issue; and many more. The book features both well-known activists and people rarely in the media. Each oral history is prefaced with a biographical essay that vividly establishes the interview settings and the subjects’ connections to their region. Written and edited by native sons of the mountains, this compelling book captures a fever-pitch moment in the movement against mountaintop removal. Silas House and Jason Howard are experts on the history of resistance in Appalachia, the legacy of exploitation of the region’s natural resources, and area’s unique culture and landscape. This lyrical and informative text provides a critical perspective on a powerful industry. The cumulative effect of these stories is stunning and powerful. Something’s Rising will long stand as a testament to the social and ecological consequences of energy at any cost and will be especially welcomed by readers of Appalachian studies, environmental science, and by all who value the mountain’s majesty—our national heritage.
Silas House is a bestselling novelist of Clay’s Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, and The Coal Tattoo, whose nonfiction has been published in Newsday, Sierra, The Oxford American, No Depression, and elsewhere. In 2008 he won the Helen Lewis Award for Community Service for his efforts in the fight against mountaintop removal. He teaches at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee.
Jason Howard is the editor of We All Live Downstream and has written for such publications as Equal Justice Magazine, Paste, Kentucky Living, The Louisville Review, and many others. He is a graduate of the George Washington University and lives in Eastern Kentucky, where he was born and raised.
“Something’s Rising will be an important tool in the fight against mountaintop removal as well as important documentation of the ravages caused by the practice.” --Melissa Walker, author of Southern Farmers and Their Stories: Memory and Meaning in Oral History -- Melissa Walker
"This revelatory work is a challenging tocsin shouting out the effects of poverty and exploitations of the Appalachian people by strip miners and other corporate pirates. I am reminded of the fighting spirit of the Eastern Kentuckians when I visited these embattled pioneers in their hills and hollers. Here, Jean Ritchie and others speak out in the fighting tradition of the 1930s and 1960s. It is oral history at its best."--Studs Terkel
“Not only will these stories resonate among Appalachians, they will also help non-Appalachians to identify with the plight of the region and to understand that national energy policy has severe human as well as economic and environmental consequences.”--Ronald D. Eller, author of Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945
“Something's Rising will be an inspiration for younger activists and should galvanize people to defend our mountains. The book provides a complete primer on mountaintop removal, then goes beyond that: it thoroughly humanizes an environmental catastrophe. Something’s Rising is a one-of-a-kind book that will make an invaluable contribution to the literature of Appalachia.”— Ann Pancake, author of Strange As This Weather Has Been
"Silas House and Jason Howard know how to write, but more importantly, they know how to listen. They both come from coal mining families, and their book is filled with the powerful, passionate, and authentic voices of men and women who share their heritage, and their outrage. My hope is that others will listen to these voices as well."--Steven V. Roberts, author of My Fathers' Houses: Memoir of a Family and coauthor of the New York Times bestseller, From This Day Forward
“Something’s Rising” is the testimony of two sons of the Kentucky coal country, novelist Silas House and activist Jason Howard, who have placed themselves at the center of a grassroots movement to fight mountaintop removal and the hegemony of the coal barons. Their own stories, their eloquent argument and the formidable array of witnesses they assemble---writers, musicians, community organizers and backroads sages with long memories---will kindle hope in the breast of the most exhausted cynic.”--Hal Crowther, author of Gather at the River and Cathedrals of Kudzu
"All 12 eco-heroes are mesmerizing, informative, and motivating as they articulate their moral and spiritual convictions, love for the land, and pride in Appalachian culture, while calling for responsible mining and respect and protection for all of life."--Booklist -- Booklist
“These oral histories will give readers a sense of what’s at stake on a personal level. . . . This important collection illuminates the ongoing betrayal of the American mining town.”--Publisher's Weekly
“This book takes you into the hearts and minds of some of Appalachia’s most committed citizens and helps you understand their moral outrage at the destruction of their homeland.” -- Charleston Gazette
“In this volume, the authors give voice to the people trying to save their mining towns. The people of Appalachia affected by the destruction of their region have begun to rise against the coal companies.” -- Southern Living
“The tales are told with the passion and determination typical of the hearty people of the mountains and contributors’ stories remind audiences sometimes living in excess has more than just a monetary cost.” -- Cleveland Daily Banner
“The voices rising in this fine and essential collection gathered by novelists Silas House and Jason Howard each sings their own song of the people and land protesting the violence being done to it by energy companies and their practice of mountaintop removal...strip mining with a vengeance. Each of their voices and stories is well worth the listening and ultimately inspiring. The book’s mission is clearly to move the public to action, to create a public outcry by building a concrete awareness. It is a long overdue and healthy gathering shared here.” -- Larry R. Smith -- Red Room Blog
“A non-fiction condemnation of the controversial style of coal mining practiced in Eastern Kentucky and elsewhere.” -- Lexington Herald-Leader
“Something’s Rising presents a series of poignant testimonies from 12 diverse people whose lives have been touched by mountaintop-removal mining. The citizens in the collection hail from Appalachia, providing inside perspectives on the events taking place.” -- Middlesboro Daily News
“In Something’s Rising, we read about children playing on creek bottoms coated with carcinogens and in streams full of dead fish. But we also hear about ordinary Appalachian people overcoming fear and fatalism to stand up for their homes and for God’s creation.” -- Sojourners
“Something’s Rising will raise your consciousness as you hear the voices of the mountaineers rise from a murmur to a wail.” -- Louisville Courier-Journal
“A humble call to those who believe that man is capable of all things, stating that the beginning of wisdom is a respect for creation, the rightness of place, and the order of being.” -- Washington Times
“Mr. House and Mr. Howard strike at [mountaintop removal] with cool, measured fury.” -- Washington Times
“Takes you into the hearts and minds of some of Appalachia’s most committed citizens and helps you understand their moral outrage at the destruction of their homeland.” -- PopMatters
“A window into traditional Appalachian values and culture, and their attachment to a beautiful and rugged landscape that is quickly disappearing beneath coal-company bulldozers.” -- PopMatters
“Gives a stirring voice to the lives, culture, and determination of the people fighting the destructive practice of mountaintop removal.” -- Joseph Beth Booksellers
“A landmark of oral history.” -- Louisville Courier-Journal
“Readers clearly hear the voices of 12 Appalachians fighting for their heritage and homes against the coal industry.” -- Louisville Courier-Journal
“Stories of real people facing real adversity in Appalachia as it is being flattened by mountaintop removal mining.” -- Earth Justice in Brief
“Something’s Rising gives hope that the mountains and streams of Appalachia will survive, if for no other reason than the people who are living there will simply not allow them to be destroyed.” -- Earth Justice in Brief
“This important book paints compelling portraits of eleven courageous people with deep roots in the Appalachian coalfields who are resisting mountaintop removal coal mining.” -- Appalachian Heritage
"Something’s Rising is an excellent and thoroughly insightful account of the confrontation between the resident mountaineer population and a newer destructive industry.” -- Choice
Something’s Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal
“Something’s Rising presents a series of poignant testimonies, such to touch and inspire readers across the nation…House and Howard have created a compelling and readable narrative…" -- Paintsville Herald
This book takes you into the hearts and minds of some of Appalachia’s most committed residents and helps the reader understand the moral outrage at the destruction of their homeland. -- Billings Gazette
Reading Something’s Rising is a fascinating and mind-opening experience. -- Multicultural Review
Something’s Rising strikes a balance between interpretation and interview that allows its narrators to speak of their own communities’ struggles while also providing concrete details of mountain top removal’s general material costs in Appalachia. . . . The interviews bring a tangible humanity to the environmental destruction wrought by mountain top removal. -- Oral History Review
Something’s Rising is a welcome addition to the growing canon of MTR literature.... This book can serve as a powerful call-to-arms, affirming those who take a stand against MTR, while encouraging more to speak out against this destructive practice. -- West Virginia History
The profiles in this book make for reading that is at the same time disturbing, and oddly leisurely and engaging. They leave you with the sense of having visited and talked with the people portrayed. -- Journal of Appalachian Studies
The book blends profiles and interviews of a dozen writers, activists, and singer/song-writers—natives of the region who are working to end this environmentally destructive form of mining. -- Journal of Southern History
"...storytelling is clearly oriented as the true north of literary activism...Something's Rising, edited by Silas House and Jason Howard, celebrates the capacity of story to illuminate the ways that individual lives and mountain landscapes are shaped by one another...Howard and House, both Kentucky natives and coal miners' grandsons, have made this provocative testimony possible, suggesting that a new narrative of energy in Appalachia must emerge, one that accurately reflects the values of community, health, and working-class environmentalism...An activist text at home in the discourse and practice of environmental justice. [Something's Rising] belongs in the good company of a movement which aims to illuminate the struggles of poor, minority, and indigenous communities against environmental hazards and seeks to redress the often egregious violations of public health and corresponding environmental degradation. [House and Howard] focus attention on Appalachia's environmental justice movement in undeniable, effective ways. And they fill a gap in several of the leading texts on environmental justice...Seen in the context of social and environmental justice struggles Something's Rising demonstrates not only that 'Appalachian's were born of social protest," but also that they have something powerful to contribute to national conversations about poverty, public health, the environment, and our shared energy future...[Something's Rising] will surely spur readers to begin asking more questions about mountaintop removal, and that is one of the hallmarks of an activist text." -- Appalachian Journal
"According to House and Howard, the something that's rising is the voice of the Appalachian people. The voices featured in this book are sometimes lyrical, sometimes gravelly, but always compelling."--Now & Then
"House and Howard tell the stories of social protest in Appalachia, expressed by the efforts of twelve courageous and 'ordinary' citizens fighting to preserve their land against mountaintop removal" -- Denise Scheberle, author of Refusing to Bow to King Coal: Tales of Our Energy Future and Mountaintop Removal in Appalachian Coal Country
"A collection of testimonies from citizens from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia, the accounts included serve not only as a cry against mountaintop-removal but also as a reflection of the strong beliefs of the people involved and of aspects of Appalachian life that are slowly disappearing along with the mountaintops." -- The Paintsville Herald