A Southern Journey from the Summer 2019 issue.
Today we think of the fight for educational equality as being a national story, one involving a progressive Supreme Court, a reluctant president, and a recalcitrant governor in Arkansas, but the struggle was fueled by black parents and teachers and students across the country. It depended upon women like Laura and teachers like Carl and patriarchs like Isaac who labored across generations to reset their children’s future.
A feature essay from the Spring 2019 issue.
Kris’s threat to leave was a loaded one. No West Virginian makes that decision lightly, and to be the cause of someone’s leaving is a terrible thing. I personally knew the weight of missing home. During all my years away, even as I enjoyed the freedom of living in a community where I felt completely comfortable talking about my sexuality, I kept my eye on returning to West Virginia. I had never found a place that felt as good to me, both in terms of the natural beauty and also the sense of a close-knit community—that feeling of being a part of something unique and true. Ever since I left I’d had a hope that someday I could return and my queer self and my Appalachian self wouldn’t have to be so split.
A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.
My burnt body hangs crisscross over Carolina beach dunes below where
family gathers children’s ringing sand splash toys tangled in teenage lust
the skin consciousness potential of everyone eyeing one another
in sunbursted bottoms there is nothing here but the bliss of this day
& so I think on death hanging out over the Atlantic so many dead
A feature essay from the Fall 2018 issue.
I first devoured Robert Gipe’s books and plays because I wanted to understand Appalachia. I was searching for deeper insights than the victim-blaming bootstrap narrative espoused in J. D. Vance’s best-selling book, Hillbilly Elegy—and where else but one of Gipe’s plays would you see convicted felons on a stage, acting right beside probation officers, teachers, and recovery coaches, all of them already bonded in their mutual need to talk about the hard problems around them?
A Points South essay from the Fall 2018 issue.
The dock at Mountain Lake is everything a dock should be—whitewashed clapboard, punctuated by an airy pavilion with a red roof—but if you jumped off it, all you’d hit is earth. There is no water here. No puddles even. Just soil, sandstone, milkweed, sassafras, and the occasional pine sapling. Skirting the periphery of the lakebed, a belt of rhododendron holds back the woods. Jutting into a meadow as it does, the dock resembles a hitchhiker’s thumb. Well, I’m not needed here anymore. I might as well move on.
In the Eastern Kentucky coalfields, unionism—or its lack—was a creed people held and defended as fiercely as those of the region’s charismatic religions. And the music Sarah Ogan Gunning and her siblings produced between the 1930s and 1960s was as steeped in unionism and communism as it was in the traditional songs, ballads, and hymns of Appalachia.
The Old Regulars sing loud. “You can’t whisper it, it needs to have zip,” one told me. Another: “If you can’t shout down here, what are you gonna do when you get to Heaven?” There is an orderliness to their singing, a formal quality—it has the shape and thrust of liturgy. But it is also indisputably wild.