Arts Literature

My Story Lecture and Discussion Series Begins September 14

The Wilma Dykeman Legacy presents its annual literary lecture and discussion series beginning in September, with events held at the West Asheville Public Library. My Story: Four Great WNC Memoirs will be spread over eight evenings through December, and will feature books by regional authors Jeremy B. Jones, Janet Hurley, Mary Othella Burnette and Jo Ann Thomas Croom. Authors will talk about their respective memoirs, and a book discussion will be held on Wednesday of the following week. All events will be held at 7 p.m. and are free and open to the public. Author talks may also be accessed via Zoom.

The event kicks off on Thursday, September 14, when Jeremy B. Jones, associate professor of creative nonfiction at Western Carolina University, discusses his memoir Bearwallow: A Personal History of a Mountain Homeland, which was named the Appalachian Book of the Year in 2014 and was awarded gold in the Independent Publisher Book Awards in 2015. “Anytime I find my name anywhere near Wilma Dykeman’s, it’s a lovely shock,” Jones says. He wrote his memoir after living in Honduras, then moving back to WNC and questioning whether, changed himself, he could settle back into a place that is also changing. “To try to find answers, I looked everywhere—” he says, “family history, geology, ghost stories—but I especially looked to writers like Wilma Dykeman to try to find my way, both on the page and on the ground.”

On October 19, Janet Hurley, owner of True Ink and co-founder of Asheville Writers in the Schools & Community (now Arteria Collective), will present her book, Glove Shy: A Sister’s Reckoning. Born and raised in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York, she came to UNC-Chapel Hill as an undergraduate in the creative writing program and has lived in the South ever since. Glove Shy is her first book-length publication and tells the story of her brother Brian, an amateur boxer who struggled with addiction and depression. “It’s really a book about love, relationships, regrets, about the impact of addiction on family and friends, about finding compassion and being accountable,” she says. Hurley looks forward to this event for its involvement of community. “People have been gathering for millennia to share and listen to stories for many different reasons,” she says. “It’s the gathering, shared presence that creates connection no matter the individual experience with the narrative.”

November’s selection will be Lige of the Black Walnut Tree: Growing Up Black in Southern Appalachia, the memoir Mary Othella Burnette began writing in 2008 after retiring from a career as an educator. “I was born into a small, close-knit African American community of the Swannanoa Valley that was settled by the last two generations of former slaves released from surrounding plantations of that area,” she says. “These were my father’s foreparents.” She was born in 1931 when, she says, “we were still oppressed by Jim Crow laws and segregation.” The presentation will be held November 9.

On December 14, Jo Ann Thomas Croom, retired professor of biology at Mars Hill University, presents No Work in the Grave: Life in the Toe River Valley. It is, she says, “a look back to the first half of the 20th century when the railroad opened up the entrenched, self-sufficient agrarian valley to a sustained period of change that was not only local but also national.” From writings left behind by her father and her uncle, she has woven an account of this time of socioeconomic change and how it greatly affected the people of the area.

“To understand the present and to envision a future, one must have a knowledge of the past,” Thomas Croom says. “Wilma Dykeman, both through her own acclaimed writing and through the Wilma Dykeman Legacy Press, has helped us to see our history in Appalachia and to imagine what our future could be.”

To learn more, visit Register for Zoom at The West Asheville Public Library is located at 942 Haywood Road.


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