An Oral History
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 10/14/1988
408 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: October 1988
Many books have been written about Appalachia, but few have voiced its concerns with the warmth and directness of this one. From hundreds of interviews gathered by the Appalachian Oral History Project, editors Laurel Shackelford and Bill Weinberg have woven a rich verbal tapestry that portrays the people and the region in all their variety.
The words on the page have the ring of truth, for these are the people of Appalachia speaking for themselves. Here they recollect an earlier time of isolation but of independence and neighborliness. For a nearer time they tell of the great changes that took place in Appalachia with the growth of coal mining and railroads and the disruption of old ways. Persisting through the years and sounding clearly in the interviews are the dignity of the Appalachian people and their close ties with the land, despite the exploitation and change they have endured.
When first published, Our Appalachia was widely praised. This new edition again makes available an authentic source of social history for all those with an interest in the region.
The whole history, past and present, of Appalachia is in this book in the words of the people most fit to tell it. The editors have done a superb job of arranging and commenting on the interviews—juxtaposing contrary opinions about issues as varied as strip-mining, traditional way and modern life, tourism and local politics, and the future of the whole region.~New York Times Book Review
Our Appalachia is obviously a treasure to be savored as much as read. My hope for it is that it will go beyond receiving more than a few moments of recognition and become a force that will rouse the kind of attention that Appalachians deserve all the time.~Washington Post Book World
The genius of this book, in fact, may be that it shows that there is no 'typical Appalachian.' The people of the mountains are as varied as people of any other region, and if they have a common attribute it is their love of their prickly, lovely land and a certain humor developed in dealing with it.~Louisville Courier-Journal
Our Appalachia gives us a beautiful songbook, songs preserving the memories, thoughts, and experiences of people who would otherwise have remained as anonymous as the black seams of coal they dug for so very long.~Chicago Tribune Book World
A compilation of the Appalachian Oral History Project, this is the summa of a five-year collaboration between the community and the staff members and students of four regional colleges. It is a book which self-consciously seeks to inspire pride in those who continue to live in the region long proclaimed one of the most benighted in America. The stoicism, courage, and flinty humor of the mountaineers is recorded for their grandchildren in the tales of wild man 'Devil John'; homemade whiskey, quilting, and cornshucking; the early horrors of the coal mines and the battles of the UMW. But the book suffers from a kind of forced optimism—'the spirit of independence is alive and well in Central Appalachia'—which is not borne out by the words of men like Lewis Burke who says simply, 'Mining is really a hazardous job with no future.' Economic self-sufficiency has always been an elusive goal, and people seem uncomfortably aware that control of the resources and wealth of eastern Kentucky is in the hands of outsiders. There are some who speak in favor of responsible strip mining and turning Appalachia into a 'recreational playground'; others bitterly oppose such notions and talk of a fundamentalist land ethic, diagnosing the malaise as 'spiritual' rather than social or economic; still others have concluded that 'It's proven out to be dog eat dog.' The whole is bound together only by dogged hope, not the kind of trenchant analysis and unifying vision that can make oral history a uniquely powerful document.~Kirkus Reviews