West Virginia University Press has three books among the finalists for the Weatherford Award, a prize that celebrates the best Appalachian books of the year.
"Recent events like the teachers' strike and presidential election have generated an enormous amount of interest in Appalachia around the world,” said Derek Krissoff, director of the West Virginia University Press. “Here at WVU Press we were already interested in it; we work with partners like the Appalachian Studies Association, Berea College, and, of course, West Virginia University itself to better understand and explain the region's complexity every day. Having multiple finalists for the Weatherford Award—the most significant prize in the field of Appalachian studies—shows we're succeeding in that important part of our mission."
The Industrialist and the Mountaineer: The Eastham-Thompson Feud and the Struggle for West Virginia's Timber Frontier by Ronald L. Lewis, a professor of history emeritus at WVU, is a finalist in the nonfiction category. This book recounts an 1897 feud that culminated when a small landholder named Robert Eastham shot and killed timber magnate Frank Thompson in Tucker County, West Virginia, leading to a sensational trial that highlighted a clash between local traditions and modernizing forces. Lewis uses this largely forgotten episode as a window into contests over political, environmental, and legal change in turn-of-the-century Appalachia.
Carter Taylor Seaton’s biography The Rebel in the Red Jeep: Ken Hechler's Life in West Virginia Politics is also a finalist in the nonfiction category. This book follows the personal and professional experiences of Ken Hechler, the West Virginia politician and activist who died in 2016 at the age of 102, recounting a century of accomplishments.
Monsters in Appalachia by Sheryl Monks is a finalist in the fiction category. This collection of short stories, a 2017 Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance Award finalist, takes place in the mountains of West Virginia, in the backyards of rural North Carolina, and at tourist traps along Route 66, where characters smolder with hidden desires and struggle to resist the temptations that plague them. A master of Appalachian dialect and colloquial speech, Monks writes prose that is dark, taut, and muscular, but also beguiling and playful.
The Weatherford Awards honor books that best illuminate the challenges, personalities, and unique qualities of the Appalachian South. Granted by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association for 47 years, the awards commemorate the life and achievements of W.D. Weatherford Sr., a pioneer and leading figure in Appalachian development, youth work and race relations, and his son, Willis D. Weatherford, Jr., who was Berea College’s sixth president (1967-84). The winning authors will be recognized at the 2018 Appalachian Studies Conference at the Millennium Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 6, 2018.
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