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Volume 24, Number 5 — May 2017

Literary series begins at library in Abingdon

Sunday with Friends literary series begins with Beth Macy.
Sunday with Friends literary series begins with Beth Macy.
Additional photos below »

December 28, 2016

The annual Sunday with Friends literary series at the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia, begins with a talk from Beth Macy, Jan. 15 at 3 p.m.

Macy was a feature writer for the Roanoke Times who became a best-selling author by exploring true stories from her region. In 2014 came "Factory Man: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local — and Helped Save an American Town" about John Bassett III and his struggles to save his company and his town. Then in 2016 Macy wrote "Truevine — Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South," which is about twin albino African-American brothers who spent many decades during the 20th century as sideshow "freaks."

Little Brown, her publisher, says this about "Truevine."

"The year was 1899, as the old people told the story; the place a sweltering Virginia tobacco community in the Jim Crow South, where everyone they knew was either a former slave, or a child or grandchild of slaves.

"'Truevine' is the story of George and Willie Muse, two African American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother embarked on an epic, decades-long struggle to get them back — and to get justice for her family.

"Though the Muse brothers' narrative has been passed down for over a century, no writer has ever gotten this close to the beating heart of their story, and its mysteries: Were they really kidnapped? How did their mother, a black maid toiling under the harsh restrictions of segregation, bring them home? And why, after getting there, would they ever want to go back?

"At the height of their fame, the Muse brothers performed for British royalty and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. They were fine musicians and global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success hinged on the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even "Ambassadors from Mars."

Macy has been a reporter for more than 25 years. She spent years working for the Roanoke Times and writes essays for The New York Times. She's also written for magazines, radio and online journals. Her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for journalism at Harvard.

The bestselling "Truevine" was chosen as A New York Times Notable Book of 2016, a Kirkus Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice and was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence.

The series continues Feb. 12 at 3 p.m., when Belle Boggs, acclaimed young Southern writer, talks about her life in writing. "Mattaponi Queen," her 2010 collection of inter-related short stories, is a portrait of a community on the Mattaponi River in Eastern Virginia. Her new work, "The Art of Waiting," is contemplation about fertility and the many choices to making a life and making a family. As she contemplates her realization that she might never be able to conceive, she ranges widely in her thoughts about the natural world, literature and contemporary film, as well as telling stories of couples struggling with fertility issues.

Fred Sauceman, a leading food writer in the Appalachian area, speaks March 5 at 3 p.m. Listen as he regales the audience with stories and recipes that he has gathered over the years throughout the region. His newest work is "Buttermilk and Bible Burgers," which he describes as "a tribute to the people loyal to the land and proud of their culinary heritage of breaking beans, the dignity of the barbecue pit, the nobility of the black-iron skillet and the transformative power of a glass of Tennessee buttermilk." Sauceman lives in Johnson City, Tennessee, where he teaches a course at East Tennessee State University on "The Foodways of Appalachia."

Linda Parsons and Other Poets join in a regional poetry celebration, March 26 at 3 p.m. Knoxville poet Parsons' fourth volume of poetry, "This Shaky Earth," straddles time, family divisions and legacies, and the regions of her native Tennessee. Her poems offer readers a world in which growth and renewal, love and remembrance, bring past and present together. Parsons is the former editor of Now & Then Magazine and an editor at the University of Tennessee. Her adaptation, "Macbeth Is the New Black," co-written with Jayne Morgan, was produced at Maryville College and Western Carolina University. Members of the Appalachian Center for Poets and Writers join her.

Julie Zickefoose speaks April 23 at 3 p.m. Zickefoose, an acclaimed nature writer and wildlife illustrator, speaks on the day after Earth Day to celebrate her new book, "Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest." Life-sized baby birds wriggle, crawl and flutter off the pages of this book, the product of 13 years of deep involvement and close observation of nesting birds. The lively writing describes the development of 17 bird species from egg to fledgling, with wonder, humor and the relentless curiosity that Zickefoose is known for. She provided commentary on NPR's All Things Considered for five years and for 12 years has written a thrice-weekly natural history blog.

Robert Morgan returns to the literary series May 21 at 3 p.m. Morgan is an internationally known historian, biographer, poet and fiction writer. His new historical novel, "Chasing the North Star," is the story of Jonah Williams, who in 1850 flees from the South Carolina plantation on which he was born a slave. He seems to be able to elude the bounty hunters but is closely followed by another escaping slave Angel, both of them following the North Star as they journey toward freedom in the North. Morgan is the author of "Boone: A Biography" and "The Lions of the West: Heroes and Villains of the Westward Expansion." He is the Kappa Alpha Professor of English at Cornell University.

Quinn Hawkesworth performs her new one-woman show, "Suitcase Blues," June 4 at 3 p.m. Abingdon actress and fiber artist, Hawkesworth asks, "What makes a good poem? Set aside analysis of rhyme, meter, imagery — the best poems have "resonance.' They are like tuning forks struck and held to the soul. "Suitcase Blues' offers glimpses of the past and the present through personal touchstones of poems that ache to be spoken aloud — to be shared — to be savored as souvenirs of memory and signposts for the future." Hawkesworth has spent her life in the theater, including several years as a member of the acting company at Barter Theatre.

Regional audience-favorite Sharyn McCrumb concludes the series June 25 at 3 p.m. She has written the 12th novel in her Ballad Series set in the Appalachian region. Her new work, "The Unquiet Grave," is based on one of the most famous ghost stories in the region-the Greenbrier Ghost in West Virginia. Zona Heaster Shue's death in 1897 was presumed to be natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe how her husband killed her. An autopsy on her exhumed body verified the ghost's account. Her husband was convicted of the murder — the only known case in which the testimony from a ghost helped to convict a murderer.

The "Sunday with Friends" literary series is sponsored by the Friends of the Washington County Public Library. All events are free and open to the public. They include receptions, book sales and signings. For more information, call 276-676-6298 or visit www.wcpl.net.

Topics: Literature



Linda Parsons and Other Poets join in a regional poetry celebration, March 26.


Belle Boggs (right), author of "Mattaponi Queen" and "The Art of Waiting," speak at the Washington County Public Library, Abingdon, Virginia, as part of the Sunday with Friends literary series. The events are free and open to the public. Book sales and singings follow. Refreshments served.


Fred Sauceman, a leading food writer in the Appalachian area, speaks March 5.


Julie Zickefoose speaks April 23.


Robert Morgan returns to the literary series May 21.


Quinn Hawkesworth performs her new one-woman show, "Suitcase Blues," June 4.


Regional audience-favorite Sharyn McCrumb concludes the series June 25.