In turbulent times, what we need is possibility, and in this rich gathering of diverse voices, Watts and Smith give us just that. A girl molds clay against her deaf brother's ears to heal him. A gay man finds his Appalachian clan in a dark world. These are stories and essays about the blues, about poverty, about families lost and made. Unbroken Circle is about broken and unbroken lives, and ultimately, hope. Karen Salyer McElmurray, author of Surrendered Child.....................
One of the goals of Unbroken Circle is to subvert stereotypesto show that Southern people are not simply shoeless, rural white people. We are a people as varied as the Southern landscape, from the mountains of Appalachia to the deltas of Mississippi to the skyscrapers of Atlanta. We are black, white, Latino, Native American, Middle Eastern, Asian, and multiracial. We are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan, atheist and agnostic. We are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, straight, and questioning. We are urban and rural, old and young, poor and rich, and all points in between. We are all these things, plus more that don't fit into neat categories.
The voices in this collection represent some of the diverse voices of our region, just a few spoonfuls from the giant pot of gumbo that makes up our region. Julia Watts (Introduction)
About the Author
Born in Southeastern Kentucky, Julia Watts is a quare-identified (that's Appalachian for "queer") novelist who has lived in Appalachia all her life. She is the author of fourteen novels for adults and young adults, most of which focus on the lives of LGBT people in the South. Her 2001 novel Finding H.F. won the Lambda Literary Award in the Children's/ Young Adult category, and her 2013 novel Secret City was a Lambda Literary Award finalist and a Golden Crown Literary Award winner. Her recent titles include Gifted and Talented (Bottom Dog Press) and Rufus + Syd, co-written with Unbroken Circle contributor Robin Lippincott. Julia holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University. She lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, and teaches at South College and in Murray State University's low-residency MFA program.
Larry Smith, a native of the industrial Ohio River Valley, is a poet, fiction writer, biographer, and editor-director of Bottom Dog Press where he has edited over 60 books and published 200. He is a professor emeritus of Bowling Green State University's Firelands College in Ohio. His most recent books are Lake Winds: Poems and The Thick of Thin: Memoirs of a Working-Class Writer. With Charles Dodd White he edited Appalachia Now: Stories of Contemporary Appalachia.
Chris Offutt grew up in Haldeman, Kentucky, population 200, in the eastern hills. He has published 6 books set in Kentucky. He also wrote screenplays for True Blood, Weeds, and Treme. His work is included in many textbooks and anthologies, including Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, and The Pushcart Prize, 2017. His most recent book is My Father, the Pornographer, from Simon & Schuster.
Meredith Sue Willis was born and bred in West Virginia where both of her parents were school teachers. Her mother's father was a witness to the Monongah Mine explosion of 1907 in Monongah, West Virginia. Her father's mother was a country store keeper in Wise County, Virginia. Willis has published more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction and is a veteran writer-in-the schools. She presently teaches novel writing at New York University's School of Professional Studies and volunteers with an anti-racist organization in the inner ring suburb of New Jersey where she lives.
Charles Dodd White is the author of the novels, A Shelter of Others and Lambs of Men, as well as the story collection, Sinners of Sanction County, published by Bottom Dog Press. He's also co-editor of the Appalachian anthologies, Degrees of Elevation and Appalachia Now, also published by Bottom Dog. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee where he teaches at Pellissippi State Community College and directs the annual James Agee Conference
Jeff Mann grew up in Hinton, West Virginia, and attended at West Virginia University. He has published five books of poetry: Bones Washed with Wine, On the Tongue, Ash, A Romantic Mann, and Rebels; two collections of essays, Edge and Binding the God; a book of poetry and memoir, Loving Mountains, Loving Men; five novels, Fog, Purgatory, Cub, Salvation, and Country; and three volumes of short fiction, A History of Barbed Wire, Desire and Devour, and Consent. He teaches creative writing at Virginia Tech.
Laura Argiri is the author of The God in Flight (Random House 1995, Penguin 1996, Lethe Press 2016) and Guilty Parties: Leighlah and Others, which includes "Cottage Industry." Lethe Press will publish Guilty Parties in spring of 2017. The collection is about the fine gradations of bad behavior and its impact on both targets and perpetrators. Laura is a bicultural Southerner/New Englander who plans to become an expatriate soon
Robin Lippincott was born and raised in a small, rural town in Central Florida, pre-Disney World. His latest books include Blue Territory: A Meditation on the Life and Art of Joan Mitchell, Rufus + Syd, a novel for young adults co-written with Julia Watts, and the novel In the Meantime. His fiction/nonfiction have appeared in The Paris Review, Fence, American Short Fiction and many other journals. He lives in the Boston area and teaches in Spalding's low-residency MFA Writing Program.
Okey Napier lives in Huntington, WV where he teaches Sociology at Marshall University, Mountwest Community & Technical College, and Ohio University. He is working on his MFA in Creative Writing at West Virginia Wesleyan College and also writing a novel, Make Me Pretty Sissy. Okey is currently touring as his drag persona, Ilene Over, in his one woman show - Rainbow in the Mountains: Queer and Fabulous in Appalachia.
Read an Excerpt
FEAST OF THE SUN
By Charles Dodd White
She hunts always at dawn, having followed the footpath between the tall chicory and wind jostled walls of river cane. Daylight is a perturbed omen in this first hour. Not the lusty blue of midday nor the burnt ooze of eventide. Instead, a gradual slide from granite to calcite, everything above her a kind of mineral reckoning. She covers ground, counts off her steps against a mental map, figures distance and the likely carry of the rifle's report to her father's trailer. He left for work long before she took his scoped Marlin and stepped into the woods, but she will not risk anything unforeseen. This is her secret, and to surrender it before its time would upend the great care she'd taken, profane her earned truth.
At her hip rides the small trophy purse, unclenched and open as a mouth. She had washed it clean after each hunt, but still the scent of blood lingers. As she walks deeper into the woods, her fingers play absently at the slack pouch lips. These same fingers, so light at the touch, would be enough to drag down what tenanted the sky, to kill with the absolute steadiness of hate.
She comes to the river ford, grounds the rifle butt in the sand and watches the water roll. The dam has not yet been let go and the current smooths itself over the rocky bed, clear and governed. At the bend of the river a fishing cabin above the water, but there is no one visible on the overhanging deck and the interior lights are not on. She raises the rifle above her head, like she's seen soldiers do in her history book, and steps into the water. It needles her skin, but she warms to it quickly, moves along the flat stones, cautious of the slick edges, remembering the previous crossings and how she had once fallen in. The time the rifle had gone in too and she had scrambled after it before it was lost in the river's quick shedding. She had turned back that morning without making it across, broken the weapon down to its bare components and salved them with a clean coat of gun oil to prevent rust.
Table of Contents
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TO THE CONFEDERATE DEADJames E. Cherry (fiction) 11
BIG QUEER CONVOCATIONSJeff Mann (nonfiction) 18
THE GRAVEDIGGERSRobin Lippincott (fiction) 28
COTTAGE INDUSTRYLaura Argiri (fiction) 33
FEAST OF THE SUNCharles Dodd White (fiction) 41
ACE OF SPADES: SEPTEMBER 15, 1973Randall Horton (fiction) 47
I BECOME A SOLDIERDavid Hunter (nonfiction) 53
ALL OF MY TREES TO DIE FORLynn Pruett (fiction) . 58
THE HOOK UPChris Offut (fiction) 66
HE THAT HATH EARSCynthia Rand (fiction) 75
MUSHY GAY SCENARIOSErin Reid (fiction) 81
I HAVE NOT YET RETURNEDKatie Winkler (fiction) 88
RIDE THE PETER PANAllison Whittenberg (fiction) 94
ABBYAnne Whitehouse (fiction) 100
RAYMOND AND THE MOUNTAIN MILITIAMeredith Sue Willis (fiction) ... 105
DAVEOkey Napier (fiction) 110
CORAL LIP, SAGE TONGUESpaine Stephens (fiction) 118
PRIDE AND PREJUDICEDLacey Schmidt (nonfiction) 123
COCONUT HEADSBonnie Schell (nonfiction) 126
SHE CAME TO STAYHaley Fedor (fiction) 130
PEARL ON SATURDAY NIGHTTom Ray (fiction) 141
THE MAN WHO TAUGHT ME TO LISTENGail Tyson (nonfiction) 149
THE IMPORTANCE OF NAMESNancy Gustafson (nonfiction) 155
SWEET GREEN ICINGL. Mahayla Smith (fiction) 160
YOU NEVER TOLD MEMelanie Haws (fiction) 169
TWO FOUNTAINSAnna Cabe (nonfiction) 178
CONTRIBUTOR BIOGRAPHIES 187