Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Appalachians: America's First and Last Frontier

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Appalachians: America's First and Last Frontier

Article excerpt

The Appalachians: America's First and Last Frontier, edited by Mari-Lynn Evans, Holly George-Warren, and Robert Santelli. Random House, June 2004. $29.95

This book is a medley of essays, oral history, poetry, photos, artwork, and song lyrics that the editors have linked together with the intent of "telling the story of Appalachia with honor and dignity." The book is billed by the publisher as a companion to a special PBS documentary film series airing in 2004 under the same title. But the high literary quality of the book is such that it merits independent standing and consideration-however excellent the film may prove to be. There is a blending of scholarly examination and emotional storytelling in the flow of The Appalachians that is most absorbing and appealing. From the opening page, editor and filmmaker Evans sets the tone in taking readers along on a journey to her roots in Bulltown, West Virginia, "where things are largely as they used to be." The pieces that follow, through word and image (some hundred photos), trace the physical changes in Appalachia and document the unchanging aspects of the culture: through focus on such subjects as coal mining, the endurance of the Scots-Irish dialect, the evolution and richness of mountain music, the heritage of storytelling, and the peculiar religious practice of serpent handling. …

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