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Radio Bristol Book Club: My Old True Love

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!

Our May book club pick is My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams. My Old True Love is a fictional story inspired by Appalachian ballads and Adams’ own family history. This tale of doomed love, heartbreak, and betrayal takes place in a close-knit 19th-century Appalachian community. Arty Wallen narrates the story as she reflects on her life and the lives of those closest to her. When Arty was nine years old her cousin Larkin Stanton was born and orphaned by the death of his mother, so Arty raises him as her own. Larkin and Hackley, Arty’s younger brother, are close but rivalrous friends. Both boys are musically gifted and enchanted by the old songs their grandmother used to sing to them. Eventually they find themselves competing for the love of Mary Chandler, the prettiest girl in their mountain community. Though Hackley wins Mary’s love, he does not stop his womanizing ways even after their marriage. When the town gets swept up in the Civil War, Hackley is conscripted to fight for the Confederacy, leaving Larkin and Mary behind. What Larkin does next reminds us that these sad songs of old are often reflective of imperfect people and the decisions a troubled heart can make.

Book cover showing an artistic rendering (painting or colored etching) of a mountain landscape with a river passing through it.

Cover design for My Old True Love

Sheila Kay Adams is a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and musician. She was born and raised in the Sodom Laurel community of Madison County, North Carolina. Her skill as a storyteller and deep familiarity with Appalachian music and culture is apparent right from the beginning of the novel. She interweaves ballads, depictions of rural community life, and Appalachian vernacular into the tale so naturally that you feel as if you are there. Adams learned the tradition of unaccompanied ballad singing from her great-aunt and other notable singers in her community. She is also an accomplished clawhammer-style banjo player and has been performing publicly since she was in her teens. In addition to her books, she has recorded several albums of ballads, songs, and stories. She was the vocal coach and technical advisor for the movie Songcatcher (2000) and made an appearance herself in Last of the Mohicans (1992).

A white woman with long straight white hair wearing a reddish-orange quarter-sleeve dress and a brown vest. She is holding a large head banjo and looking.

Sheila Kay Adams

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, May 26 at 12:00pm for the discussion of My Old True Love. 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 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for June is Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, June 23. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

Erika Barker is the Curatorial Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

 

 

 

Radio Bristol Book Club: What You Are Getting Wrong about 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!

Our April book club pick is What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte. While the book is only 146 pages, it packs in a lot of history, culture, and analysis into its examination of Appalachia and the too-frequent stereotypes or perceptions of this region. Appalachia covers over 700,000 square miles, with counties in 13 states from Alabama to New York. Despite this huge area and the widely different characteristics and peoples who live and work here, Appalachia has too often been viewed over the years as a monolithic region and described predominantly with words like backwards, poor, white, uneducated, rural, isolated, etc. A lot of those perceptions were strengthened by J. D. Vance’s popular book (and now a movie) Hillbilly Elegy, published in 2016. Catte knows a different Appalachia – and her book is a powerful answer to the caricatures and assumptions made about the region as she explores its diverse peoples and voices and why stereotypes about Appalachia have been embraced.

The cover of What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia shows a yellow sky with the title words in black on it. The sky is above a dark green and black forest and the reflection of the trees in the red water below as standing people.

 Elizabeth Catte is a writer and historian from East Tennessee. She writes about history, politics, and culture, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Washington PostGuernicaThe NationMcSweeney’sIn These Times, the Boston ReviewGravy, and has been reviewed in The New York TimesBookforumNew York Review of Books, and the Los Angeles Times. Currently she is an editor-at-large for West Virginia University Press and the co-founder of Passel, an applied history firm. She has a PhD in public history from Middle Tennessee State University and uses her master’s degree in museum studies to curate a website dedicated to food eaten on King of the Hill called Pork Chop Night. She also serves on the board of the Appalachian African-American Cultural Center in Pennington Gap, Virginia.

This photograph is a headshot of a white woman. She has reddish brown hair that reaches to her shoulders, and she is wearing a blue button-down shirt. Her eyes look blue and she is smilling at the camera.

Author Elizabeth Catte.

 Please make plans to join us on Thursday, April 28 at 12:00pm for the discussion of What You Are Getting Wrong about 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 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for May is My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, May 26. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

René Rodgers is head curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Come Sing, Jimmy Jo

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!

This month we are reading Come Sing, Jimmy Jo, a children’s book by Katherine Paterson. The story follows James Johnson as he sings and plays the music he loves. But approaching fame as the centerpiece of his family’s band on television – and the change of his performing name to Jimmy Jo – bring mixed feelings and anxiety. Jimmy Jo isn’t sure that this new music is for him, and he’s sad to leave his mountain home to be on stage. How does he reconcile these feelings and responsibilities with the music that is a part of him and with still being just a kid? Aimed at children 10 years and up, this book makes for a great story for adults too!

Book cover shows a young white boy with light hair and glasses singing and playing guitar in the front yard of a wooden house. He is wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Behind him, an older gray-haired woman sits on the porch listening to him. She wears a light-colored dress.

Katherine Paterson’s website shares this beloved author’s many achievements and accolades, but for many of us, the Paterson book that had the most impact on us is the wonderful but cry-inducing Bridge to Terabithia. However, she has written a multitude of books – more than 40, in fact, including 18 novels for children and young people. She has twice won the Newbery Medal, for Bridge to Terabithia in 1978 and Jacob Have I Loved in 1981. The Master Puppeteer won the National Book Award in 1977 and The Great Gilly Hopkins won the National Book Award in 1979 and was also a Newbery Honor Book. For the body of her work, she received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1998, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2006, and in 2000 was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress.

Not only is she a prolific author, but she also gives her time and passion to children’s literature and reading. She is a vice-president of the National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance and is a member of the board of trustees for Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is also a honorary lifetime member of the International Board of Books for Young People and an Alida Cutts lifetime member of the US section, USBBY. She was the 2010-2011 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

In this image, an elderly white woman sits in a wooden chair with trees and meadow behind her. She is wearing a blue long-sleeved top with a long necklace.

Author Katherine Paterson.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, February 24 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Come Sing, Jimmy Jo by Katherine Paterson, followed by a conversation with the author! 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 March is LGBTQ: Fiction and Poetry from Appalachia by Jeff Mann; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, March 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.

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.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Songteller – My Life in Lyrics

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 is Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann. This beautiful coffee table book is a joy and an inspiration to read – from cover to cover, or just dipping into the individual stories behind your favorite songs. Told in her own words, Dolly mines over 60 years of songwriting to share the personal stories, candid insights, and vivid memories behind 175 of her songs. She explores the earliest song she wrote (at age six!), familiar and well-loved hits like “Coat of Many Colors,” “9 to 5,” and “I Will Always Love You,” and songs she performed with other artists like “Tomorrow is Forever” (Porter Wagoner) and “Let Her Fly” (Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette) – amongst so many others. It’s not only the insights and the history behind Dolly’s huge songwriting catalog that make this book special; the reader also gets to enjoy wonderful images from throughout her career, photographs of important and personal ephemera and objects that have been saved over the years, and a hint of her “secret song,” locked in a display case at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and set to be open in 2045!

The book cover is a pale aqua with red writing; it also has some decorative floral elements in a darker aqua around the central oval. In the central oval there is a black-and-white photograph of a young Dolly Parton. She is a white woman with big loosely curled blond hair, large hoop earrings, and a denim shirt. She is looking over her shoulder.
The cover of Dolly Parton’s Songteller.

Dolly Parton needs no introduction, but just in case you don’t know her and her work well, here are the basics: Born in East Tennessee, Parton began singing and performing at an early age, taking her talent and determination all the way to Nashville – and beyond. She is the most honored and revered female country singer-songwriter of all time, with numerous awards, bestselling albums, and Top 10 hits. She has also acted to great acclaim, and she is well-known for her charity work, most especially her Imagination Library, which has gifted over 130 million books to children across the world. Journalist Robert K. Oermann has been called “the unofficial historian of Nashville’s musical heritage.” When he first came to Nashville, he worked as a reference librarian at the Country Music Hall of Fame; since then he has written nine books, worked on documentary films, and produced pieces for numerous media outlets including The Tennessean, Rolling Stone, and Esquire.

This photograph shows an older white man wearing a dark flue denim button-down shirt over a tee. He has black-rimmed glasses and white thinning hair. He is sitting in a burgandy/brown patterned chair with bookshelves/record shelves and other home decor behind him.
Author Robert K. Oermann. Taken by Larry McCormack for The Tennessean

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, December 23at 12:00pm for the discussion of Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton with Robert K. Oermann. After our discussion, we’ll have the chance to chat to Oermann about his work with Dolly on this wonderful book. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time – even better, pick up a physical copy and look at it while listening to the audiobook version, thus getting the best of both worlds! 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 January is Storming Heaven by Denise Giardina; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, January 27. 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 Dolly fan.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs

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!

The November book club book is Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs by historian and author Richard Polenberg. In this book, Polenberg lays out the real historical events that led to the creation of many famous folk songs. The songs in the book are ballads – narrative songs that focus primarily on an individual but also groups, events, or institutions. In this case, they mostly took place in North Carolina, West Virginia, and Missouri though other states appear in the book, including Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Folk songs have many versions, and Polenberg follows that history by examining various versions of the songs in this book. Over time, verses may have been dropped, added, or modified in some way to better suit the musician or audience. However, even though the songs – and sometimes even the melody – have changed, their fundamental message did not. This core message and the circumstances surrounding the song’s creation are where Polenberg has chosen to focus. He dives right to the root of each song and unveils the real events and surrounding social issues that inspired such entrancing music.

The cover of Hear My Sad Story has a painting of various scenes from the songs featured in the book in its top half. These include a man with a knife standing over a woman on the ground in front of him; an old house on a hill; a tree with a flowering bush behind it; a winding road; and three musicians - a harmonica player, a fiddler, and possibly a jug player (or drinker) sitting at a table, playing their instruments. The title and author are below the cover illustration.

As a professor of American history at Cornell University for 45 years, Polenberg taught a generation of students. He was distinguished with several teaching awards throughout his career and was recognized as one of the most popular professors on campus. He also published many books that helped draw attention to often obscure corners of America’s political and legal development. He received awards and praise for several of his books, including Fighting Faiths: The Abrams Case, the Supreme Court, and Free Speech (1987), which won the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award. Several of his other books, such as The Era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1933–1945 (2000), War and Society: The United States, 1941–1945 (1972), and One Nation Divisible: Class, Race, and Ethnicity in the United States since 1938 (1980) are often used in college classrooms.

After his retirement, Polenberg spent more time on his passion for blues and folk music, eventually publishing Hear My Sad Story, his final book. Hear My Sad Story combined his interest in music with his extensive knowledge of the American legal system in the 19th and 20th centuries. The songs are all carefully chosen to reflect the social history of the times in which they were originally written. 

In this image, an older white man with white hair stands in a lecture theater near a podium. He is wearing a grey suit jacket, a royal blue shirt, and a colorful tie; he also wears glasses.
Richard Polenberg at the end of his final lecture at Cornell.
Cornell University File Photo

Hear My Sad Story is organized by key themes within the music – St. Louis, lying cold on the ground, bold highwaymen and outlaws, railroads, workers, disasters, and martyrs – and is a delightful example of how music can be a window into history. Many of the individuals in these tales find themselves in legal trouble – sometimes they deserved it, sometimes the system failed to work for them because they were poor, women, African American, or immigrants. 

Though the lyrics may be romanticized or exaggerated, the true tales behind these classic songs all stem from tragic truths. Truths that often involve murder, love affairs gone wrong, desperate acts born out of poverty or unbearable working conditions, natural disasters, and calamities such as shipwrecks and railroad crashes. These ballads contain the stories of real people who experienced fear, love, loss, and hope. The songs that were born from their stories will help to ensure they are never forgotten. 

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, November 18 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs by Richard Polenberg. 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 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!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for December is Songteller: My Life in Lyrics by Dolly Parton w/ Robert K. Oermann; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, December 23. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

* Erika Barker is the Curatorial Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

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.