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Homesickness, and the Struggle to Come Home to Appalachia

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courtesy Ann Lockard
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This week on Inside Appalachia, we talk about what brings people back home to the mountains of Appalachia. And we’ll hear about what happens when people finally do come home. Can the reality of home ever truly live up to our memories of it?

The longing for a place can be as inexplicable as it is inescapable. Why do residents from Appalachian states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia have such fiercely loyal connections and often a longing to return? In this episode we try to wrap our heads around this intangible, mysterious thing called Homesickness.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • Roger May, a photographer who recently moved back to West Virginia after spending most of his lifetime away.
  • Jesse Donaldson, author of the book, On Homesickness, a Plea. The book is based on the tension between his own mixture of romance and reality.
  • J.D. Belcher and wife Jina, both grew up in McDowell County. Despite high rates of unemployment in their area, they each found a way to stay in southern West Virginia. They say they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. J.D. was recently contracted by the McDowell County Visitors Bureau, to produce a video and a website, called “Meet McDowell” to help promote the area’s bed and breakfasts and local restaurants:

  • Niki Meadows, who grew up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia but moved away to North Carolina for work. She shares why she finally decided to move home.
  • Jon Henderson, a Texas native who found a new home in the mountains of east Tennessee.
  • Ann Lockard, who grew up in Boone County, West Virginia. After spending a few years away, she rediscovered why home was special to her and found a way to move back home.
  • Terry Tincher, who also grew up in Boone County, West Virginia and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. He misses the mountains, but because of work, has not found a way back. 
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    Credit courtesy Jesse Donaldson/ WVU Press
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    Writer Jesse Donaldson on his book tour in Kentucky

Music in this episode was provided by Dinosaur Burps, Josh Armistead, Dog and Gun, Lobo Loco, Blue Dot Sessions, and Ben Townsend. Our What’s in a Name theme music is by Marteka and William with “Johnson Ridge Special” from their Album Songs of a Tradition.

Roxy Todd and Jessica Lilly produce Inside Appalachia. Catherine Moore edited our show this week. And Zander Aloi mixed this episode. Our executive producer is Jesse Wright. Claire Hemme helped with our digital correspondence. You can find us online on Twitter @InAppalachia.

You can also send us an email to InsideAppalachia@wvpublic.org.

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Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program. You can reach her at jlilly@wvpublic.org
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards. You can reach her at rtodd@wvpublic.org.