Something's Rising: Appalachians Fighting Mountaintop Removal

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Like an old-fashioned hymn sung in rounds, Something's Rising gives a stirring voice to the lives, culture, and determination of the people fighting the destructive practice of mountaintop removal in the coalfields of central Appalachia. Each person's story, unique and unfiltered, articulates the hardship of living in these majestic mountains amid the daily desecration of the land by the coal industry because of America's insistence on cheap energy. Developed as an alternative to strip mining, mountaintop removal mining consists of blasting away the tops of mountains, dumping waste into the valleys, and retrieving the exposed coal. This process buries streams, pollutes wells and waterways, and alters fragile ecologies in the region. The people who live, work, and raise families in central Appalachia face not only the physical destruction of their land but also the loss of their culture and health in a society dominated by the consequences of mountaintop removal. Included here are oral histories from Jean Ritchie, "the mother of folk," who doesn't let her eighty-six years slow down her fighting spirit; Judy Bonds, a tough-talking coal-miner's daughter; Kathy Mattea, the beloved country singer who believes cooperation is the key to winning the battle; Jack Spadaro, the heroic whistle-blower who has risked everything to share his insider knowledge of federal mining agencies; Larry Bush, who doesn't back down even when speeding coal trucks are used to intimidate him; Denise Giardina, a celebrated writer who ran for governor to bring attention to the issue; and many more. The book features both well-known activists and people rarely in the media. Each oral history is prefaced with a biographical essay that vividly establishes the interview settings and the subjects' connections to their region. Written and edited by native sons of the mountains, this compelling book captures a fever-pitch moment in the movement against mountaintop removal. Silas House and Jason Howard are experts on the history of resistance in Appalachia, the legacy of exploitation of the region's natural resources, and area's unique culture and landscape. This lyrical and informative text provides a critical perspective on a powerful industry. The cumulative effect of these stories is stunning and powerful. Something's Rising will long stand as a testament to the social and ecological consequences of energy at any cost and will be especially welcomed by readers of Appalachian studies, environmental science, and by all who value the mountain's majesty -- our national heritage.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Novelist House (Clay's Quilt) and Kentucky journalist Howard, both "children of Appalachia," decided to pick up where the national media have left off in their environmental obsession, illuminating the long-growing mining crisis in Central Appalachia. Twelve Appalachians-among them a college student, former union organizers, community activists and the octogenarian "mother of folk," Jean Ritchey-provide first-hand accounts of a disappearing way of life, a vital ecology in rapid decline, an industry that refuses to take responsibility for the devastation it causes (blowing the tops off mountains is only the latest, most destructive technique), and a nation too hooked on cheap energy to help. If nothing else, these oral histories will give readers a sense of what's at stake on a personal level. Student Nathan Hall calls mining the best job he ever had: "I met the most interesting characters of my life... the most hilarious, most good hearted." Says Judy Bond, lifelong resident of the leading coal-producing county in W.V., "The more coal we mine, the poorer we get." This important collection illuminates the ongoing betrayal of the American mining town.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Publisher
Something's Rising will raise your consciousness as you hear the voices of the mountaineers rise from a murmur to a wail." — Louisville Courier-Journal

"A humble call to those who believe that man is capable of all things, stating that the beginning of wisdom is a respect for creation, the rightness of place, and the order of being." — Washington Times

"Mr. House and Mr. Howard strike at [mountaintop removal] with cool, measured fury." — Washington Times

"Takes you into the hearts and minds of some of Appalachia's most committed citizens and helps you understand their moral outrage at the destruction of their homeland." — PopMatters

"A window into traditional Appalachian values and culture, and their attachment to a beautiful and rugged landscape that is quickly disappearing beneath coal-company bulldozers." — PopMatters

"Gives a stirring voice to the lives, culture, and determination of the people fighting the destructive practice of mountaintop removal." —

"A landmark of oral history." — Louisville Courier-Journal

"Readers clearly hear the voices of 12 Appalachians fighting for their heritage and homes against the coal industry." — Louisville Courier-Journal

"Stories of real people facing real adversity in Appalachia as it is being flattened by mountaintop removal mining." — Earth Justice in Brief

" Something's Rising gives hope that the mountains and streams of Appalachia will survive, if for no other reason than the people who are living there will simply not allow them to be destroyed." — Earth Justice in Brief

"This important book paints compelling portraits of eleven courageous people with deep roots in the Appalachian coalfields who are resisting mountaintop removal coal mining." — Appalachian Heritage

" Something's Rising is an excellent and thoroughly insightful account of the confrontation between the resident mountaineer population and a newer destructive industry." — Choice

" Something's Rising presents a series of poignant testimonies, such to touch and inspire readers across the nation…House and Howard have created a compelling and readable narrative." — Paintsville Herald

"This book takes you into the hearts and minds of some of Appalachia's most committed residents and helps the reader understand the moral outrage at the destruction of their homeland." — Billings Gazette

"Reading Something's Rising is a fascinating and mind-opening experience." — Multicultural Review

" Something's Rising strikes a balance between interpretation and interview that allows its narrators to speak of their own communities' struggles while also providing concrete details of mountain top removal's general material costs in Appalachia.... The interviews bring a tangible humanity to the environmental destruction wrought by mountain top removal." — Oral History Review

" Something's Rising is a welcome addition to the growing canon of MTR literature.... This book can serve as a powerful call-to-arms, affirming those who take a stand against MTR, while encouraging more to speak out against this destructive practice." — West Virginia History

"The profiles in this book make for reading that is at the same time disturbing, and oddly leisurely and engaging. They leave you with the sense of having visited and talked with the people portrayed." — Journal of Appalachian Studies

"The book blends profiles and interviews of a dozen writers, activists, and singer/song-writers — natives of the region who are working to end this environmentally destructive form of mining." — Journal of Southern History

"...storytelling is clearly oriented as the true north of literary activism... Something's Rising, edited by Silas House and Jason Howard, celebrates the capacity of story to illuminate the ways that individual lives and mountain landscapes are shaped by one another...Howard and House, both Kentucky natives and coal miners' grandsons, have made this provocative testimony possible, suggesting that a new narrative of energy in Appalachia must emerge, one that accurately reflects the values of community, health, and working-class environmentalism...An activist text at home in the discourse and practice of environmental justice. [ Something's Rising] belongs in the good company of a movement which aims to illuminate the struggles of poor, minority, and indigenous communities against environmental hazards and seeks to redress the often egregious violations of public health and corresponding environmental degradation. [House and Howard] focus attention on Appalachia's environmental justice movement in undeniable, effective ways. And they fill a gap in several of the leading texts on environmental justice...Seen in the context of social and environmental justice struggles Something's Rising demonstrates not only that 'Appalachian's were born of social protest," but also that they have something powerful to contribute to national conversations about poverty, public health, the environment, and our shared energy future...[Something's Rising] will surely spur readers to begin asking more questions about mountaintop removal, and that is one of the hallmarks of an activist text." — Appalachian Journal

"According to House and Howard, the something that's rising is the voice of the Appalachian people. The voices featured in this book are sometimes lyrical, sometimes gravelly, but always compelling." — Now & Then

"House and Howard tell the stories of social protest in Appalachia, expressed by the efforts of twelve courageous and 'ordinary' citizens fighting to preserve their land against mountaintop removal." — Denise Scheberle, author of Refusing to Bow to King Coal: Tales of Our Energy Future and Mountaintop Removal in Appalachian Coal Country

"A collection of testimonies from citizens from Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia, the accounts included serve not only as a cry against mountaintop-removal but also as a reflection of the strong beliefs of the people involved and of aspects of Appalachian life that are slowly disappearing along with the mountaintops." — The Paintsville Herald

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813125466
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 9/17/2010
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,028,617
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Silas House is a bestselling novelist of Clay's Quilt, A Parchment of Leaves, and The Coal Tattoo, whose nonfiction has been published in Newsday, Sierra, The Oxford American, No Depression, and elsewhere. In 2008 he won the Helen Lewis Award for Community Service for his efforts in the fight against mountaintop removal. He teaches at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Jason Howard is the editor of We All Live Downstream and has written for such publications as Equal Justice Magazine, Paste, Kentucky Living, The Louisville Review, and many others. He is a graduate of the George Washington University and lives in Eastern Kentucky, where he was born and raised.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Lee Smith xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

The Preservationist Jean Ritchie 23

Mother Jones's Great-Granddaughter Denise Giardina 45

Little Acts of Greatness Bev May 67

Union Made Carl Shoupe 95

A Light in the Dark Kathy Mattea 113

The Endangered Hillbilly Judy Bonds 131

Called to Action Pat Hudson 151

Appalachian Patriot Jack Spadaro 179

A Leader, Not a Follower Nathan Hall 201

Holy Ground Anne Shelby Jessie Lynne Keltner 217

The Gathering Storm Larry Bush 245

Appendix A Text of the Petition Letter Circulated by Coal Companies against the Stream Saver Bill 263

Appendix B House Bill 164, the Stream Saver Bill, as Introduced in February 2008 265

Notes 267

Selected Bibliography 287

Index 291

About the Authors 305

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 7, 2014

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

    Awesome....!Beautiful....!Wonderful....!I really enjoy it.....!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2012



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  • Posted May 31, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Voice for the Mountains

    Being a huge fan of Silas House's work, I bought this book at the lecture series "Evening With the Mountainkeepers." Not only was I able to meet House and co-author Jason Howard, but they autographed my book. I was also privileged to hear them read an excerpt from this important books.

    Mountaintop coal removal is a controversial topic, especially in Appalachia. On one hand, the practice supplies much needed jobs for the residents of mining towns; on the other, this practice destroys natural wildlife habitats, leaving deep scars upon the land.

    This book contains the personal stories of 13 residents of the Appalachian region and gives you a representation of their views and opinions. I think this is an important book, not only for the understanding of mountaintop removal, but also for learning about the cultures of Appalachia.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 4 Customer Reviews

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