Southern Appalachian Studies
Mountain Hands: A Portrait of Southern Appalachia
Monday, June 26, 2017, 7 p.m. in the Sharon Lawson Room
Author Sam Venable will present the story of his book, Mountain Hands: A Portrait of Southern Appalachia, discussing how he got started on the project, his four-plus years of research and interviewing with photographer Paul Efird, and the writing process. He will also share selected personal stories from the book. This program is part of the library’s Southern Appalachian Studies, sponsored by the Blount County Friends of the Library.
Venable is a fifth-generation southern Appalachian and University of Tennessee graduate. He has authored 13 books, is a member of the “Talk is Cheap” comedy troupe, and shares his observations on daily life in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Venable is a member of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame and the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. He and his wife, Mary Ann, live in a log house atop a wooded ridge on the outskirts of Knoxville.
From the Blount County Library’s press release
Venable says, “I have always maintained that the hands of Southern Appalachia are especially gifted.” In the hills and “hollers” of the mountains, people from days gone by were often isolated and therefore had to depend on themselves for eking out a living.
When a person thinks of Southern Appalachia, some trades and skills may come immediately to mind: beekeeping, quilt making, sawing timber, mining coal, baking biscuits, stirring molasses. In the chapter about grave digging, With a touch of grim humor, Venable quotes Johnny King as saying, “I’m the last man to ever let you down.”
“I offer this collection,” says Venable, “as a celebration of gifted people who understand
and appreciate their heritage. In one way or another, each person herein is bonded inseparably with the misty ridge, the fertile valleys, the rushing streams, and towering forests of this land … Southern Appalachians were, and are, an intelligent, independent, innovative, industrious lot … [They are] honest and friendly, infused with powerful senses of humor, justice, integrity, and fair play, and I am honored to introduce them to you. For they are good people. Proud people. My people.”
From the Mountain Hands book page at Amazon.com
Hazel Pendley creates heirloom-quality quilts. Ed Ripley wraps bits of fur and feathers into trout flies the size of gnats. Edna Hartong still makes an item that has all but disappeared from the American scene: lye soap.
All of these people, and many more like them, are Appalachians who work with their hands. Journalist Sam Venable and photographer Paul Efird spent four years combing the hills and hollows of Southern Appalachia to find these talented individuals and let them talk about their work. Mountain Hands is an intimate look at more than three dozen such craftspeople and their vocations.
Mountain Hands is a celebration in words and photographs of gifted people who understand and appreciate the Appalachian heritage—and who live it every day.
Open to the public, this program is hosted by the Blount County Public Library, located at 508 N. Cusick Street, Maryville. For further information about library programs or services, call 982-0981 or visit the library website.