In the Black: A Memoir of Coal Mining


I discovered Gary Bentley’s serialized memoir, In the Black, through the podcast of Inside Appalachia. It’s a deeply moving, often shocking memoir of his work in a deep coal mine in Kentucky. There are few real-life accounts that offer this type of insight into the daily lives of miners. We can only hope that Bentley gets a book deal from the blog–this is the type of account that should be required reading for all Appalachian studies students.


Buck Wild! Another “discovery” of Appalachia

UK Professor Alexandra Bradner offers her analysis of MTV’s BuckWild:

America’s favorite joke is anything but funny: MTV’s “Buckwild” joins a long tradition of skewering “hillbillies”


On the night before the premiere of their new MTV reality show “Buckwild ” — which aired last Thursday — Shain Grandee and Kristina Shae Bradley appeared as exotic guests on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Grandee offered Fallon a glass jar of deer meat. “Killed it myself,” Grandee explained. “We skin it and process it all at the house and everything.”

“Weirdest coincidence. Common [the previous guest] brought me the same gift,” joked Fallon, before asking what he was supposed to do with the meat. Grandee said, “Heck, you can just get a fork and eat it right out of the jar, if you want to.” Fallon dropped his face into his hands and shook his head at the thought of it. But when the slowly escalating cheers from his studio audience reached a fever pitch, he unscrewed the lid, stuck his finger cautiously into the jar, and gave the crowd what they wanted.

Grandee bolted out of his seat with his arms over his head and unself-consciously screamed, “Wo-o-o! That’s awesome!” But his stylishly dressed friend and costar remained seated uncomfortably with her legs crossed, clearly preoccupied with how she was being perceived. Fallon asked her about the predictable controversy surrounding the series, the claim from former governor and current Sen. Joe Manchin that the program, which shows her group of nine friends riding ATVs, “mudding” and pursuing other creative forms of low-cost fun, perpetuates negative stereotypes of Appalachians. She had quickly responded to the same question on at least two other shows by saying that she represents only herself and not an entire state. But, in this moment, nothing came out. She looked sad and thoughtful, like an animal suddenly realizing that it’s not a peer, a friend or a community member — it’s lunch.

Buck Wild cast on Jimmy Fallon

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Residential Field School in WV

I’ve been teaching a course on Appalachian Folklore this semester.  For the first time ever, i’ve partnered with the GMU Center for Field Studies to provide a one-week residential field school in Morgan County, WV from May 20-27.  Eight students will be joining me for a week in the Mountain State. We’ll be doing an ethnographic map of the county seat, a series of participant-observations, and I nearly a dozen oral history interviews with local residents.


The purpose of the field school is two-fold: to get students into the very place they’ve been studying all semester and give them the opportunity to conduct community-based research that will be archived locally (in the Berkeley Springs Museum and the West Virginia & Regional History Collection at WVU).

I will be blogging on our adventures throughout the field school  I please feel free to follow our progress and post comments on what I hope will be an outstanding learning experience for the students (and me).