Beyond Dark Hills

Beyond Dark Hills

by Jesse Stuart

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More than eighty years ago, a young man from Kentucky borrowed $150, gathered up his Oliver typewriter, a trunk short on clothes and long on manuscript pages, and headed for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a master’s degree. He was essentially a farmer, and liked what he had heard about a group of Vanderbilt writers who were more interested in the land than the growing industrialization of the South.

The young man was Jesse Stuart, author of Beyond Dark Hills, a book which began in 1932 at Vanderbilt as a paper for an English professor who asked his seminar students to turn in a maximum of eighteen typewritten pages. In the eleven days allotted for the assignment, Jesse crammed 322 pages from border to border with the story of his young life. Embarrassed to present his professor with such a bulky memoir, Stuart made as small a package as he could of the manuscript, waited until everybody else in the class had turned in a paper, and then attempted to slip his work unobtrusively into the pile.

Of the 322 pages about a simple farm boy and his family, Stuart’s professor said, “I have been teaching school for forty years and I have never read anything so…beautiful, tremendous and powerful.” Stuart later added a final chapter and the manuscript was published in 1939. It is the story of a rural boy defining his life as he made the passage from boyhood to manhood.

The story is as relevant today as it was in the 1930s. Here, Stuart shares all his youthful anxieties as he prepares for life and then ventures forth on his own—his first “true love,” his early school years, his adolescent desire to escape the confines of his parents’ loving but often smothering tutelage, his short-lived stint as a carnival worker and as an apprentice blacksmith, before entering college. Stuart freely shares his frustrations and successes as he examines the forces that mold and shape him into a world-famous author and educator.

These ageless, universal experiences were told by a vibrant, precocious young man who became one of the most widely read American authors of the twentieth century. For the young reader who has yet to experience the transition from childhood to adulthood, this book can be an inspiring guide. For older readers, it may be a beautiful trip down memory lane.

For old and young alike, this book provides inspiration, hope, desire, and courage to make each life count.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940014189705
Publisher: Stuart, Jesse Foundation, The
Publication date: 04/02/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

Jesse Hilton Stuart (August 8, 1906 - February 17, 1984) was an American writer who achieved prominence in the short story, poetry, and novels. Born and raised in Greenup County, Kentucky, Stuart relied heavily on the rural locale of Northeastern Kentucky (and, perhaps to some degree, Southwestern Ohio, mainly around the Portsmouth area) for his writings. Indeed, he said that most of his stories were elaborations of true incidents that he observed or had heard about.

One day while he was plowing in the field, he stopped and wrote the first line of a sonnet: "I am a farmer singing at the plow." the first line of the seven hundred and three sonnets that he would collect in Man with a Bull-Tongue Plow (1934). Stuart was made poet laureate of the state of Kentucky in 1954, and in 1961 he received the award from American Academy of Poets.

His first novel was Trees of Heaven (1940). Set in rural Kentucky, the novel tells the story of Anse Bushman, who loves working the land and wants more land. Stuart's style is simple and sparse. Taps for Private Tussie (1943) is perhaps his most popular novel, selling more than a million copies in only two years.

Stuart published about 460 short stories. He wrote his first short story "Nest Egg" when he was a sophomore in high school in 1923. The story is of a rooster at his farm, whose behavior was so dominant that it began attracting hens from other farms, leading to conflict with the neighbors. Twenty years later, he submitted the story unchanged to the Atlantic Monthly, which accepted the story and published it in February of 1943; it was later collected in Tales from Plum Grove Hills.

Stuart has also been a prominent figure in American education, and the theme of education appears often in his books. He described the role that teaching played in his life in The Thread that Runs So True (1949), though he changed the names of places and people. He first taught school in rural Kentucky at the age of 19 at Cane Creek Elementary School, which became Lonesome Valley in his book.

The Thread that Runs So True (1949) has become a classic of American education. Ruel Foster noted in 1968 that the book had good sales in its first year. At the time she wrote, sales for the book had gone up in each successive year, an astonishing feat for any book. The book has continued continuously in print for more than fifty years.

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