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Appalachian Center and UPK Celebrate Appalachian Literature

By Sarah Geegan

The Appalachian Center and the University Press of Kentucky are hosting three events Friday, April 20, to celebrate Appalachia-related books published during this academic year.

The events, which will take place both at Memorial Hall and the Appalachian Center, honor books that contribute to the understanding of the Appalachian region and were published by UK faculty or by the University Press of Kentucky during this academic year.

Helen Lewis and Judi Jennings will give an Appalachian forum based on their new book, "Helen Matthews Lewis: Living Social Justice in Appalachia," at 3:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

Lewis has served as the director of the Berea College Appalachian Center, Appalshop’s Appalachian History Film Project and the Highlander Research and Education Center.

Their book, drawn largely from Lewis’s published interview, combines Lewis's personal narrative with relevant selections from her colleagues and students. It documents her work in the region, beginning in 1943 with her position on the yearbook staff at Georgia State College for Women with Mary Flannery O’Connor. Providing insight into Lewis's mission of activism and social justice, the book illustrates how she influenced Appalachian Studies by encouraging community participation and challenging traditional perceptions of the region.

"Helen Lewis has profoundly shaped Appalachian Studies through her activist scholarship," Ann Kingsolver, director of the Appalachian Center and the Appalachian Studies Program, said.

A free dinner reception and book signing event will follow from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at the Appalachian Center, at 624 Maxwelton Court.

The event will feature several authors and editors, including Lewis and Jennings, along with Ted Olson, editor of "The Hills Remember: The Complete Short Stories of James Still"; Ellen Riggle and Sharon Rostosky, editors of "A Positive View for LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-Being"; and Robert Ludke, a co-editor, and some of the authors published in "Appalachian Health and Well-Being."

Ted Olson is professor of Appalachian studies and English at East Tennessee State University. His book honors the late Appalachian writer, James Still. A collection of Still's short stories, Olson's book highlights these literary works, which are often overshadowed by Still's poetry and novels.

"Ted Olson offers new access to the writings of James Still, a vibrant contributor to Appalachian literature," Kingsolver said.

Ellen Riggle is a professor in the UK departments of Gender and Women's Studies and Political Science; Sharon Rostosky is a professor in the UK College of Education. Their book explores positive dimensions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) identities through firsthand accounts. 

"Ellen Riggle and Sharon Rostosky’s volume, 'A Positive View for LGBTQ: Embracing Identity and Cultivating Well-Being,' contributes to a growing community conversation about LGBTQ Appalachian identity, although their focus is not specifically on Appalachia in the book," Kingsolver said.

Robert L. Ludke is a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Cincinnati and a member of the Board of the Urban Appalachian Council.

"Appalachian Health and Well-Being," is a collection that compiles data and research-driven perspectives on ways to address health-related inequalities in rural and urban Appalachians. 

Directly after the reception and book signing, the authors and editors of all four books will form a panel to talk about their work and take questions from the audience at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall.

For more event information, click here.

Other upcoming events sponsored by the Appalachian Center include a book reading by 2011 National Book Award winner and UK English Professor Nikky Finney.

“Nikky Finney’s book, 'Head Off and Split,' is another strong contribution to Appalachian Studies," Kingsolver said.

Finney will give a reading at 4 p.m. April 26, in the UK Special Collections Library.

There will also be a marathon reading by Kentucky poets and writers called "God Ain’t Makin’ No More Land,” at 10 p.m. April 24, in the Worsham Theater.

All of these events are free and open to the public. For more information, click here.