Tag Archives: Appalachian Studies Association

Author Carol Boggess Wins Book Award

KHS Award logoUniversity Press of Kentucky author Carol Boggess has been named the recipient of a 2018 Kentucky History Award given by the Kentucky Historical Society for her book, James Still: A Life. The Kentucky History Awards recognize outstanding achievements by historians, public history professionals, volunteers, business and civic leaders, communities, and historical organizations throughout the Commonwealth, promoting the history of state and local history. The awards were presented at the Kentucky History Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 9, at the Old State Capitol in Frankfort.

Boggess offers a detailed portrait of writer James Still in the definitive biography of the man known as the “dean of Appalachian literature.” Despite his notable output, including the classic novel River of Earth, and his importance as a mentor to generations of young writers, Still was extremely private, preferring a quiet existence in a century-old log house between the waters of Wolfpen Creek and Dead Mare Branch in Knott County, Kentucky. Boggess, who befriended the author in the last decade of his life, draws on correspondence, journal entries, numerous interviews with Still and his family, and extensive archival research to illuminate his somewhat mysterious personal life.

In James Still: A Life, James Still.final.inddBoggess explores every period of the author’s life, from his childhood in Alabama, through the years he spent supporting himself in various odd jobs while trying to build his literary career, to the decades he spent fostering other talents. This long-overdue biography not only offers an important perspective on the Still’s work and art but also celebrates the legacy of a man who succeeded in becoming a legend in his own lifetime. According to Lee Smith, author of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, Boggess’s “graceful and informative biography sheds light into many shaded places and dark rooms of his long life, illuminating the sources and passions of this beloved giant of American literature, one of the greatest writers of all time.”

James Still is the seventh University Press of Kentucky publication in eight years to win a KHS award, joining Kentucky and the Great War: World War I on the Home Front by David J. Bettez; The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia by Gerard L. Smith, Karen Cotton McDaniel, and John A. Hardin; Bloody Breathitt: Politics and Violence in the Appalachian South by T.R.C. Hutton; The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event by James C. Nicholson; A History of Education in Kentucky by William E. Ellis; and Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920 by Estill Curtis Pennington. James Still was previously named the winner of the 2018 Weatherford Award for Non-Fiction.

Carol Boggess is president of the Appalachian Studies Association and former English professor at Mars Hill University.

Boggess KHS award pic

KHS Executive Director Scott Alvey, Carol Boggess, and KHS Governing Board President Constance Alexander. Photo by Marvin Young.

 

Advertisements

Celebrating Appalachia and Helen Matthews Lewis

Home to approximately 25 million people, Appalachia is nestled in hills and steeped in tradition. It ranges from the southern tip of New York State down to the northern parts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. It is a region of abundant natural beauty and natural resources, of folk songs and farmland, of dialects and powerful voices that hold powerful opinions.

However, some Americans don’t see Appalachia in such a light. Their view is clouded by jokes and stereotypes of the ignorant, racist “hillbilly” who doesn’t speak properly, of the “trailer trash” who always drinks moonshine and never wears shoes. Although the region struggles with certain problems such as poverty, its people and culture are not stereotypes to ridicule. They are diverse, intelligent, and ever-hopeful.

Helen Matthews LewisThis is what Helen Matthews Lewis, known as the “Mother of Appalachian Studies,” has helped others to see throughout her lifetime and career. A Georgia native, Helen has worked with miners in the coalfields of southwest Virginia and has worked with the communities of Jellico, Tennessee; McDowell County, West Virginia; and Ivanhoe, Virginia. She helped give birth to Appalachian Studies and has taught and lectured at many of the leading educational institutions in the Appalachian region. Among her other contributions, she has mentored seminarians working in the mountains; been involved in adult and community educational programs throughout the region and abroad; served as President of the Appalachian Studies Association; and held major leadership roles at the Highlander Research and Education Center and Appalshop.

Helen’s story counters negative images and stereotypes, as she has confronted rural poverty, racial prejudice, economic injustice, and traditional gender roles. Her ability to empathize, her moral courage, and her intellectual honesty have made her well-equipped for the fight for social and economic justice in Appalachia. Her life story demonstrates that, with perseverance and passion, change can occur. Communities can be impacted. Lives can be bettered—for generations to come.Helen Matthews Lewis 2

If you want to learn more about Helen Matthews Lewis’s work and Appalachia, pick up a paperback copy of Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).