The Millions

Stories Bad and Good: Understanding Appalachia Through Reading

Asher looked up at all those stars again. It wasn’t right for such a sky to be shining above them when so many people had lost so much. But the sky doesn’t pay a bit of attention to the things that happen to us, the joys or the sorrows, either one.” –Silas House, Southernmost

1.
I ordered the sweatshirt—the navy with bright yellow lettering—from Kin Ship Goods, the offbeat apparel store in Charleston. “West Virginia vs. The World.” I suppose I didn’t really need a new sweatshirt, although I felt compelled to get this specific one. Kin Ship only sells super soft sweatshirts and tees, with a whole line of WV-themed clothing. One place of several that feels uniquely our own.

Our. Possessive. The language of belonging to others, to someplace, even if that someplace tends to be a much-maligned and misunderstood corner of the world. That’s what it means, many times, to be from Appalachia. As the only state wholly contained within Appalachia, “West Virginia vs. The World” indeed. I attempted to, in an almost literal way, wear my heart on my sleeve, except the wording on my sweatshirt stretches over my entire torso. You can’t miss it.

In his novel Silas House begins with a flood biblical enough for a small borough of East Tennessee and its preacher, Asher Sharpe. “The rain had been falling with a pounding meanness for two days, and the waters rose all at once in the middle of the night …” As the waters rise, Asher tends to his soggy, wiped-out flock. Reading about the flood in House’s novel reminded me of two summers past, when, away for some training in New York City, I awoke to the morning news showing , a senator from my state, outside Clendenin, West Virginia, which, like many other places in the state, suffered severe flooding. Rains came down in such quantity and force that the creeks and streams and rivers swelled into every available hollow. From Clendenin, the cameras panned to images of Richwood, also flooded, a river through the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Millions

The Millions8 min read
Mitchell Zuckoff on Writing His 9/11 Magnum Opus
It was the deepest dive I have ever taken. As much as I care about all of the work I’ve done, I knew I would never tell a more important story than this. The post Mitchell Zuckoff on Writing His 9/11 Magnum Opus appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions5 min read
Edwidge Danticat Depicts a New Haiti
Some of the characters have never experienced the horrors that the author’s earlier characters fled; many live in America. The post Edwidge Danticat Depicts a New Haiti appeared first on The Millions.
The Millions6 min read
‘Let’s Hope for the Best’: Featured Fiction from Carolina Setterwall
I take out my phone and snap a picture. You are two brothers and a father who will never again meet in this life, but nobody knows that yet. The post ‘Let’s Hope for the Best’: Featured Fiction from Carolina Setterwall appeared first on The Millions.