March 19, 2019

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. 

January 03, 2019

An excerpt from Mesha Maren's new novel Sugar Run.

The woman leans forward, elbows on the table and black hair slicked back under a cap. She’s been there for three days, winning more than half the hands she plays, and her presence carves a space in the room disproportionate to her size.

May 31, 2018

The Drake Equation explores a unique space in West Virginia—one that overlaps with the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” a 13,000-square-mile area where radio transmissions are heavily limited to allow for the investigation of extraterrestrial life by enormous telescopes and monitoring devices.

April 10, 2018

Isabelle Baldwin’s Sleepy Time Down South depicts a quiet “life protected by the mountains,” and embraces the wash of romantic nostalgia that sometimes colors childhood when we recollect it as adults. Inspired by Louis Armstrong’s 1930s track, “When It’s Sleepy Time Down South,” her photographs are sun-drenched and peaceful.

December 14, 2017

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

From the Janiculum, you can see the dull red cells that look like arcades, the two squat watchtowers, and the closest buildings laid out in cruciform, recalling Regina Coeli’s religious past. You wouldn’t necessarily perceive it as a prison unless you knew—even the razor-wire is rendered mere decoration by distance—though the cells’ countless black eyes do recall Foucault’s Discipline & Punish. I often took my binoculars but couldn’t see much else: certainly not people. Prisons and asylums, convents and poor farms, halfway houses and nursing homes: these institutions have always drawn my eye. I think, If nothing else works out for me, I can always go there. 

October 18, 2017

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

For all we romanticize the notion of “work” in America, and as much as the politicians shill for it, the daily life of a laborer is the first thing to slip the collective memory. Instead, our children are taken to visit the mansion, the cathedral, or the art museum where the dirty money was poured. The factories corrode. The roof falls in. The weather comes.

August 31, 2017

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

Why are some places cursed and others blessed? The blessed never ask this question. They don’t have to. This has been the concern of my work. A small plea, now, for a dying town.

July 11, 2017

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

As soon as we entered the town, a warren of stone houses perched on a ridge, maybe home to five hundred, I got the feeling of something vaguely sinister ahead, as you do before entering a particularly violent bar or a house party in meth-land. 

May 18, 2017

An installment in our weekly story series, The By and By. 

Beneath all I’m a low-church Protestant, splinter spit from the door when Martin Luther nailed up his paper at Wittenberg. I remember being warned as a child not to attend a church with cushioned pews: insufficiently austere.

April 06, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By. 

In the West Virginia of long ago, when it was a place with work that lured people, rather than spitting them out into the world, the Calabrians came to mine the coal, the Sicilians to lay the rails, the Abruzzese to chisel lovely stonework on the railroad tunnels and passes—you can still find that abandoned work in places, overgrown in ivy and filth, the names of its artisans lost to history.

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