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Radio Bristol Book Club: Storming Heaven

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm! If one of your resolutions for 2022 is to read more books, Radio Bristol Book Club is a great way to help you meet that goal – so read along with us!

Our first book of 2022 is Denise Giardina’s Storming Heaven. This 1988 novel follows the journeys of four residents of Annadel, West Virginia, who live in the midst of conflict between the mining community and the coal industry that dominates the small town. From activists and union men to a local nurse and a Sicilian immigrant whose sons lost their lives in the mines, Giardina uses their personal and every day stories to explore “forgotten events in history,” including the Battle of Blair Mountain, the largest labor uprising in United States history. Giardina’s book is a complement to The Way We Worked, a Smithsonian exhibit currently on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. This exhibit traces the history of work in America over the last 150 years, including the impact of unionization on workers’ rights and working conditions. The museum has also created a supplementary display focused on local and regional work history, and one section of the display explores coal mining and includes a wide variety of objects and images loaned to us from the Buchanan County Historical Society. The exhibit will be open through January 23, so be sure to stop by and visit it before it goes!

The cover of the book is dark green with the title in a pink or peach color. Below the title and author, an image of a coal town in the mountains is seen with a railroad track leading into it from the right side of the picture.
The cover to Denise Giardina’s Storming Heaven.

Denise Giardina was born and raised in West Virginia. Storming Heaven, her second book, was a Discovery Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and received the 1987 W. D. Weatherford Award for the best published work about the South. She is the author of Good King Harry, Saints and Villains, The Unquiet Earth, Fallam’s Secret, and Emily’s Ghost. Her Appalchian novels have been taught in university courses. Giardina has been ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church, and she is also a community activist and a former candidate for governor of West Virginia.

An older white woman sitting in a wooden rocking chair. She is wearing a green-patterned floral dress with a brownish cardigan, and she is holding a microphone while she talks to an audience.
Denise Giardina speaking at Appalachian State University in 2015.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, January 27 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app.

Looking ahead: Our book pick for February is the children’s book Come Sing, Jimmy Jo by Katherine Paterson; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, February 24. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and a voracious reader.