In my previous post, Sassy Southern Belles, I briefly mentioned my love for Loretta Lynn. I find her life, voice, and songs to be incredibly poignant and beautiful. In the past month I’ve been rediscovering her music and life story–this included watching the movie Coal Miner’s Daughter with my boyfriend Jim who had never seen it before. After my encore viewing of this wonderful film, I started thinking about other stories, novels, and singers that celebrate and/or elaborate upon the Appalachian region and the lives of coal miners and their families. Here are a few of my favorites:
Strange As This Weather Has Been by Ann Pancake. I loved this novel for several reasons–1. The prose is beautiful and distinctly West Virginian. 2. I really appreciate novels that celebrate the lives of “ordinary” people in situations that many people may not think worthy of a novel (this is one of the reasons why I adored Last Night at the Lobster). 3. I found the information about strip-mining and slurry floods both terrifying and fascinating. FIC PAN
Back Roads & Coal Run & ESPECIALLY Sister Mine all by Tawni O’Dell. O’Dell’s novels take place in Pennsylvania coal country and have some of the most interesting and multi-faceted characters I’ve ever encountered. FIC ODE
Big Stone Gap Trilogy by Adriana Trigiani. If you’re looking for lighter fare this summer, try these novels about Ave Maria Mulligan, an incredibly likable heroine who is the pharmacist in a small town with lots of local Appalachian color. FIC TRI
It’s not quite Appalachian, but Levon Helm did play Loretta Lynn’s father in Coal Miner’s Daughter so I decided to include his latest offering Dirt Farmer. CD COUNTRY HEL
I, of course, have to include Loretta Lynn, and repeat my recommendation of the amazing album Van Lear Rose. CD COUNTRY LYN
Gillian Welch may not be Appalachian but her music is a beautiful celebration of the region, especially her stunning album Revival. CD FOLK WEL
Growing up I had a collection of Appalachian folktales compiled by Richard Chase called Grandfather Tales. I read and reread all of the stories until they were memorized (which would later help me in my Storytelling course in library school) and loved seeing familiar fairy tales in this fascinating, earthy setting. To this day my favorite story is Catskins (a story I proudly received an A for “telling” as my Storytelling midterm). J 398.2 CHA
There are many readers who voraciously read every book by a given author, or keep coming back for titles in the same genre, but I’m a reader who loves to find a region and explore it through the novels I choose to read. I find it enthralling to “travel” through my reading choices, I’m able to see how numerous authors re-imagine and interpret the same places and regions and it absolutely transports me. Happy trails!
~Tricia is the youth librarian at OWL and has loved traveling via books (from the comfort of her armchair) since she was a little girl.