Valentine’s Day is approaching. If you are looking for a Valentine’s Day gift or just a good collection of short stories, I recommend “Appalachian Love Stories.” Edwina Pendarvis, a nationally recognized scholar and author, and I compiled and edited this collection which was published by the Jesse Stuart Foundation in 2001. We cast a broad net for material in order to include some new authors, along with established greats like Jesse Stuart and Billy C. Clark.
When we began this project, we asked our friends to name famous couples from Appalachian literature and history. About the only names anyone came up with were Johnse Hatfield and Roseanna McCoy, Li’l Abner and Daisy Mae, and Mammy and Pappy Yocum. Such a paucity of names reinforced our belief that Appalachians just aren’t known for their romantic nature. No Romeo and Juliet, no Tristan and Isolde. We don’t even have a Bonnie and Clyde!
This collection of stories includes some familiar Appalachian themes, love of nature, interest in the past, and closeness of family, interwoven with the theme of romantic love.
The stories in this book depict the Appalachian experience from our pioneer beginnings to the Vietnam War and beyond. Many are set in the past — as far back as the French and Indian War — and almost all of them reflect a strong awareness of the importance of the past, especially the lingering effects of war. Like many Appalachian writers, these authors write about the past as a way of acknowledging history at work in their lives today and as a way of paying tribute to their forebearers, maybe too as a way of recouping losses that Appalachians have felt ever since the industrialization of the region.
Another familiar Appalachian theme that makes an appearance here is the importance of family. These stories emphasize the role of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, even sons and daughters, in influencing the course of romance. A related theme, but one that was something of a surprise to us, is the strong theme of love growing out of shared hardships. Sometimes this theme is expressed in a traditional fashion and harks back to the conventional romantic ideal of life-long devotion, but two of the stories feature couples who marry for practical reasons, then end up in love after all, because of the hard work they do together.
The cover design of this book and the wonderful illustrations that accompany each story are the work of Jim Marsh. Marsh, an Ashland resident who is now retired, was one of Kentucky’s most successful artists and book designers during his long career.
The Jesse Stuart Foundation is proud to present this book to the reading public. “Appalachian Love Stories” will provide hours of enjoyment for any reader, but we believe it will be especially satisfying to the people of Appalachia who may revisit parts of their own lives, loves and courtships in this collection of stories.
Appalachian Love Stories and thousands of other excellent gift books are available at the Jesse Stuart Foundation Bookstore and Appalachian Gift Shop at 4440 13th Street in Ashland. For more information, stop by the Foundation, call (606) 326-1667, or visit the website at jsfbooks.com.
DR. JAMES GIFFORD, Ph.D., is the CEO and Senior Editor at the Jesse Stuart Foundation.