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Radio Bristol Book Club: The Moon-Eyed People – Folk Tales from Welsh America

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!

Cover of The Moon-Eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America by Peter Stevenson.

According to Cherokee legend, the “moon-eyed people” are a race of small men who once lived in the Southern Appalachians. These folk, considered significantly different from the Cherokee in physical appearance, were bearded and had ashen skin. They were called moon-eyed because “they were small and pale, lived underground, and could see in the dark.” 

The Moon-eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America is a collection of stories by Peter Stevenson that includes true stories, tall tales, and folk tales, all mixed together into a literary delight. They tell about the lives of migrants who, upon leaving Wales, settled in America. These “moon-eyed people” were a diverse group of soldiers, hobos, witches, miners, explorers, sailors, and wayfaring strangers, to name just a few. In this collection of tales, you will find stories about “a mining settlement in Appalachia described as being unfit for pigs to live in, Welsh weavers making cloth for enslaved people, a monster being defeated by a medicine-girl, a criminal marrying an ‘Indian Princess,’ and mountain women practicing Appalachian hoodoo, native healing, and Welsh witchcraft.” There is sure to be a tale for everyone’s taste.

Peter Stevenson with a “krankie,” a device that allows the storyteller to roll out the story in illustrative form while they tell their tale. Credit: Felix Cannadam Photography

Author Peter Stevenson was born in Lancashire, England, but lived in Wales for most of his life.  He studied illustration at Manchester Art College, and he researched folk drama and folk tales as a postgraduate in the Institute for Dialect and Folklife Studies at Leeds University. Stevenson has written, illustrated, and compiled children’s books and fairy tales for various publishers. He has also shared his tales as a storyteller in a variety of places, such as church crypts, village halls, grand theaters, cafes, and art galleries. In addition, he tours storytelling shows while working with talented musicians. Stevenson has lived in Aberystwyth for the last 30 years and is the recipient of the Children’s Book of the month award in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, October 28 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Moon-Eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America, followed by a conversation with author Peter Stevenson. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this wonderful children’s book, and if you have thoughts or questions about the story 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for November is Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs by Richard Polenberg; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, November 18 (a week early due to Thanksgiving). Check out our full list of 2021 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows, and keep an eye out – we’ll be releasing our 2022 reading list soon!

Guest blogger Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director at the Bristol Public Library.

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Carter Family – Don’t Forget This Song

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!

This month’s book choice is something a bit different for Radio Bristol Book Club – a graphic novel! For those who don’t know, graphic novels are “stories that are presented in comic-strip format and published as a book” – too often they are written off as “just comic books,” but the graphic novel format is a great platform for telling deep and meaninful stories, from Art Spiegelman’s Maus about Nazi Germany to Alan Moore’s Watchmen, an untraditional superhero tale that has been hailed as great literature, to John Lewis’s March about the Civil Rights movement. The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song tells the story of the original Carter Family’s beginnings and their rise to hillbilly music stardom from their first recordings in Bristol in 1927 until they split up in 1944. Each short chapter is named after a different Carter Family song, appropriate to the part of their story being told, and the words and images work beautifully together as the reader explores this interesting historical journey in an unexpected literary style.

The image to the left is the cover of The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song. It is a drawn cover showing an orange sky with pale green hills and a small wooden cabin in the foreground. A black-and-white vignette with the Carters is to the left of the cabin -- it has AP in a suit standing beside Sara in a pale dress, and Maybelle sits in front of them with a guitar. The image to the right shows the opening panels to a chapter titled "They Call Her Mother" that depicts Sara giving birth to her first child.
The cover and one of the chapter opening pages from The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.

The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song – written by Frank M. Young and illustrated by David Lasky – came out in 2012. (I actually bought my copy at New York Comic Con that year, underlining my geek status, and brought it back to the museum team as a book we definitely needed to stock in our store at the time!) Young is a writer and editor who has contributed to newspapers and magazines across the country, while Lasky is originally from Virginia and has written and illustrated many highly acclaimed comic books, along with another collaboration with Young about the Oregon Trail.

Two white men sit beside each other with the book The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song in front of them. The man on the left is balding and wears a blue button-down shirt over a grey t-shirt. The man on the right has dark hair and a beard and is wearing a brown-checked button-down shirt. He also has glasses.
Frank M. Young and David Lasky with their graphic novel about The Carter Family.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, September 23 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, followed by a conversation with authors Frank M. Young and David Lasky. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this wonderful children’s book, and if you have thoughts or questions about the story 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for October is The Moon-Eyed People: Folktales from Welsh America by Peter Stevenson; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, October 28. Check out our full list of 2021 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Radio Bristol Book Club: Weaver’s Daughter

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!

Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley writes August’s Radio Bristol Book Club book, Weaver’s Daughter, a heartwarming historical novel about a pioneer family living in the Southwest Territory (now Tennessee) in 1792. The protagonist, Lizzy Baker, and her two sisters must navigate the hard work that comes with living the farm life, and so they help their mother by weaving to make extra money for the family.

The cover image shows a young white girl with long brown hair in pioneer dress bending over a loom or worktable with yarn piled nearby.

However, the most challenging obstacle for the Baker family is dealing with 10-year-old Lizzy’s sickness. Around harvest time each year, Lizzy suffers greatly with an affliction that doctors and natural medicine cannot seem to remedy. She struggles to breathe, and each year it only seems to get worse. Family and neighbors rally together to help Lizzy, but nobody is sure what ails her or how they can help. Hezzy and Nan, Lizzy’s sisters, have their wants and cares in the pioneer life, but nothing else matters when you are afraid your sister might die. 

Taking their minds off their own worries, all the girls are excited when a new family from Charleston, South Carolina, the Beaumonts, arrive and move in practically next door to the Baker family in a rundown log cabin. What is this wealthy family doing so far from home, and will the community and the Baker family accept the newcomers into their lives? Weaver’s Daughter is an incredible story about family, love, friendship, community, and the bonds that tie all these together.    

A headshot of the author showing her from the chest/shoulders up. She is a white woman with long brownish hair and blue eyes; she is wearing glasses. She has on a royal blue V-neck sweater with lighter blue trim, dangly earrings, and a pendant on a black leather necklace rope.
Portrait of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley lives on a 52-acre farm in Bristol – right on the border of Tennessee-Virginia and nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Bradley was a chemistry major at Smith College in North Hampton, Massachusetts, where a classmate suggested she take a course in children’s literature. Newbery Medalist Patricia Maclachlan was the instructor, and both she and Bradley soon realized Bradley had a gift for writing. After college, Bradley started medical school as planned but dropped out after six weeks to pursue her dream of being an author. Although her books are marketed for children and teens, adults have discovered her fine writing and storytelling and have become true fans. Bradley has published 17 books, which have won several awards and honors. Her children’s books, The War That Saved My Life, received the Newbery Honor award in 2016, and Fighting Words received the Newbery Honor Book in 2021. 

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, August 26 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Weaver’s Daughter. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this wonderful children’s book, and if you have thoughts or questions about the story 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for September is the graphic novel The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song by David Lasky and Frank M. Young; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, September 23. Check out our full list of 2021 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

* Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director at the Bristol Public Library.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Sharyn McCrumb’s Appalachia

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!

“My books are like Appalachian quilts, I take brightly colored scraps of legends, ballads, fragments of rural life, and local tragedy, and I piece them together into a complex whole that tells not only a story, but also a deeper truth about the culture of the mountain South.” ~ Sharyn McCrumb

Our July book pick, Sharyn McCrumb’s Appalachia, is a collection of essays by Appalachian author Sharyn McCrumb. In these essays, McCrumb describes her writing process and how the people, history, and magic of Appalachia inspire her work. If you have been reading along with us, you may also recognize her name from The Ballad of Tom Dooley, which we read together back in 2019.

The book cover has the title "Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia at the top, and the image shows a deer on a path with green growth of trees, flowers, and grass around her.

In the essay “Keepers of the Legends,” McCrumb discusses the importance of family legend, regional folklore, and music as inspiration and as an aid in her writing process. She also explains the origin of the persistent desire throughout her career to write books that make a difference and do more than entertain. “Reflections on Historical Fiction” expounds on this idea of “moral fiction” and the importance of being diligently accurate as a historian while also writing the account in a way that the reader can truly feel and experience the history.

In “A Novelist Looks to the Land” and “The Celts and the Appalachians,” McCrumb explores the idea of place and the importance of geographic environment not only in a story but also to the people who once lived there and to those who live there now. “Magic Realism in Appalachia” is about the supernatural elements that still prevail in the Appalachian Mountains today. This subtle magic is particularly prevalent among Appalachian woman as explored in the essay “Nora Bonesteel and the Sight.” McCrumb’s friend Charlotte Ross was the inspiration for one of McCrumb’s most famous and intriguing characters, Nora Bonesteel. Ross was a professor of Appalachian folklore and, like Bonesteel, possessed the Sight.

A white woman with shoulder-length brown hair and bangs. She is wearing black pants and a black shirt with a beige cardigan. She is looking at the camera and holding an open book "The Devil Amongst the Lawyers" and a pen, as if she is about to sign the book.
The author Sharyn McCrumb with one of her books.

Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning author with several New York Times best sellers to her name. She is best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels, and her books are studied at universities and have been translated into 11 languages. She has lectured at Oxford University and the Smithsonian Institution, and she also served as writer-in-residence at King University right here in Bristol!

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, July 22 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Sharyn McCrumb’s Appalachia, You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this fascinating collection of essays with their deep exploration of the mountains we know and love. And if you have thoughts or questions about this 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for August is Weaver’s Daughter by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, August 26. Check out our full list of 2021 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

* Erika Barker is Curatorial Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.