Arts and Culture

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West Virginia author Mesha Maren’s debut novel “Sugar Run” is set in a fictional version of Greenbrier County. Maren is from Alderson and currently splits her time between North Carolina and West Virginia. 

“Sugar Run” tells the story of a woman named Jodi McCarty. The story begins as she is being released from prison. She wants to head back to where she grew up in southern West Virginia, to live on land owned by her grandmother. But before she does that, she wants to make good on a promise she made before prison.

Ella Jennings

Our region has faced major economic changes and challenges in the past decade. But if you know our region’s history, this story of boom and bust, renewal and recession, is an all too familiar story. In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll explore how these economic changes affect people, our friends, our neighbors, and how entire communities can be uprooted by the closing of a local factory, or coal-mine layoffs. 


Courtesy Deb Morgan

This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are making connections with each other, themselves, or a spiritual community. 

Caitlin Tan / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Little creatures are popping up on the streets of downtown Fayetteville, W.Va. People might find them hiding in trees, behind bushes, on benches or even inside local shops.

“Cause at this point, we’re like a gnome explosion,” said Tabitha Stover, Fayetteville Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

Doctors point to overwhelming evidence that breast milk is superior to formula. But breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to be low. Reasons for that may be lack of paid maternity leave in the U.S., challenges breastfeeding at work, the role of WIC in subsidizing formula and the fact that for many women, breastfeeding, although natural, is a learned skill and there aren't enough people teaching techniques. 

We’re taking another listen to an episode this week that we aired earlier this year about this important topic. More than a dozen women share their stories about motherhood, breastfeeding, and society’s demands. 


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In 2013, Jim Dahlman, a journalist and professor of communications at Milligan College in Tennessee, set out to learn more about Appalachia by walking Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Road from Tennessee into Kentucky. 

The walk inspired the recently published book “A Familiar Wilderness: Searching for Home on Daniel Boone’s Road.” It is a collection of history, modern observations and interviews with people Dahlman met along the way. 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

Inside Appalachia Associate Producer Eric Douglas began his journalism career in Matewan, West Virginia nearly 30 years ago. He recently revisited the town and sat down with Inside Appalachia Host Jessica Lilly to discuss what has changed and efforts to revitalize the town with tourism. 

The downturn of the coal industry hurt Matewan, like much of southern West Virginia. Government records show that there were 3,000 people working in coal mining 30 years ago in Mingo County, bringing in $130 million dollars in wages. Coal accounted for about one-third of all the jobs in the county and more than half of the total income. 


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In her new novel, "Blood Creek", author Kimberly Collins writes about the strikes that gripped the southern West Virginia coalfields in the early 20th Century from the perspective of the women who lived through them.

"Blood Creek" is the first in the Mingo Chronicles series. It starts with the strike at Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in 1912. Collins used real characters from history in her books, several of whom she is related to. 


Chuck Roberts/ WVPB

By branding southern West Virginia “Hatfield & McCoy” country, are we re-affirming negative stereotypes in Appalachia?

In this week’s episode of Inside Appalachia, we’ll look at how some communities in southern West Virginia are hoping to jumpstart their local economies through tourism. In particular, we’ll explore a type of tourism that caters to ATV riders along the Hatfield and McCoy trail system.

But what do we gain, and what do we lose, when we market ourselves to visitors? Are people able to remain true to their real identity, and claim ownership of their own narrative? We'll discuss that and more in this week's episode.


Brittany Patterson / WVPB

Adversity isn’t new to Appalachia. We’ve faced boom and bust cycles for over a century. This episode of Inside Appalachia looks at some of those struggles and various efforts to curtail them. We’ll hear stories about West Virginia’s overwhelmed foster care system, to questions about what is killing off apple trees. And we’ll explore the research behind job creation programs ⁠— many of which are supported by federal grants. Do they bring long-term economic impact to Appalachia? 


Eric Douglas / WVPB

A large wooden sign that says “Yew Here” greets visitors as they drive into the Yew Mountain Center. Nestled in the woods of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the property for years operated as a farm. A few years ago, a group of community members sought to repurpose the land to create a place for outdoor education. 

“It was really a neighborhood effort to turn this property into something that would preserve the land and also serve the community,” said Erica Marks, the center’s director.

Roxy Todd / WVPB

What foods did your parents and grandparents cook when you were growing up? What memories of food do you hold onto after all these years?

This week on Inside Appalachia, we'll talk about food from our region. We'll explore what happens when fancy chefs start cooking up our traditional fare, and we discuss how what we consider to be staples are called "trash food" by others.

Caitlin Tan / WVPB

Across Appalachia, there are remarkable stories of resilience in the face of adversity. This week on Inside Appalachia, we’ll meet several people who are recovering from drug addiction, and are finding a new path forward by learning to build stringed instruments. And we’ll learn about a rare plant that rebounded after being put on the endangered species list. And why this particular plant, called the buffalo running clover, has a secret weapon; when it’s beaten down, it bounces back even stronger.


Emily Allen / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The recently renovated Coin Harvey House on Third Avenue in Huntington is a beautiful old building with a double staircase and glass windows. It easily stands out from its modern-day surroundings, which include a fast food joint across the street and an auto body shop next door. 

As seen from the New Jersey Turnpike near Kearny, N.J., smoke billows from the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York after airplanes crashed into both towers Tuesday, Sept.11, 2001.
Gene Boyars / AP file photo

It’s hard to believe the terror attacks on Sept. 11 were 18 years ago.

In some ways, it feels like it just happened. In other ways, it seems like forever ago.

I still vividly remember where I was and what I was doing that morning. I’m sure you do, too.

It was an awful event in our nation’s history, and we should never forget what happened, what it meant and what we lost on that terrible day.

We were attacked by evil men who perverted a religion as an excuse to do unspeakable and unfathomable acts of hate.

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The novel “The Boys Who Woke Up Early” looks at the Jim Crow south in a fictional county along the border of Virginia and West Virginia in 1960. Author and journalist A.D. Hopkins told the story through the eyes of three teenage boys.  

Hopkins’ main character is a teenage boy named Stony. He is a juvenile delinquent, who is always in trouble with his school and with law enforcement. They live in a fictionalized town called Early, Virginia during a period “when the Ku Klux Klan is still in still lingering around when the color bar is still very much in force,” Hopkins said. 

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Alexander Rosenstein is an orthopedic surgeon and a university professor who lives in Charleston, West Virginia and in Hawaii. But as much as he loves the surgical theater, he also loves spy thrillers — he grew up loving Ian Fleming’s books about James Bond. 

Now he’s telling his own spy thriller stories with his debut novel “Sword of the Kremlin.” It’s set during the Cold War, but with a twist: His main character is in the KGB.


Courtesy Christy Smith

Christy Smith’s debut novel “Killed It” is a thriller with a twist. Smith explained that the book is both a thriller and a dark comedy. It’s set in New York City and the protagonist is a young, failed female comedian who is working as a paralegal.


Jessica Lilly / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Across Appalachia, thousands of coal miners have suffered from black lung disease. In the 1960s, miners organized a movement to end the chronic condition. They convinced Congress to pass new laws that were supposed to make black lung a thing of the past. Today, conditions underground have changed, and the disease has come roaring back. For this episode of Inside Appalachia, we are taking another listen to this show which aired in the spring. 

Historical Photos Courtesy of the Nitro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

There’s a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia where some locals say living there is a "blast."

As part of our occasional series, "What’s in a Name," we take a look at the history and folklore of the names of Appalachian places. The town in question, Nitro, West Virginia, grew out of the explosives industry and was home to a factory that helped supply the U.S. Army with gun powder during World War I. Ken Thompson volunteers at the World War I museum in the city of Nitro.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

Pinch, West Virginia is home to about 3,500 people and the longest running community reunion in the country. Since 1902, the reunion has brought current residents together as well as many who moved away.


Eric Douglas / WVPB

There was a time that life along the river revolved around riverboats. In the 19th century, the only way to get supplies or mail was the river. To keep the history of the river alive, a community of enthusiasts in West Virginia and Ohio maintain riverboats for their personal use. 

The original riverboats were called “sternwheelers.” The stern is the back of the boat, so these riverboats had a paddlewheel that provided thrust to propel the boat up and down the river. 

Eric Douglas / WVPB

At any given time on weekends during the summer months, there are likely dozens of divers exploring the world beneath the waves at Summersville Lake in Nicholas County, West Virginia. Just watch for their bubbles on the surface.

It may come as a surprise that a lake known for fishing, camping and boating, is also a favorite destination for divers. They come to the lake to take classes, practice their diving skills and just have fun in the water. 

Courtesy Photo: Michael Connick

After a career working in the international intelligence community, realistic cold war spy novels have been Huntington author Michael Connick’s forte. His latest book, a crime novel titled “HPD” is still realistic, but it focuses on the Huntington Police Department in present day. 

HPD follows the 12 year career of a Huntington police officer from when he first joined the force in 2006 through 2018. The main character, a patrolman, follows up on a murder investigation in his own time, in spite of what it costs him personally. 

Corey Knollinger / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Several breweries across the state are hosting events as part of West Virginia Craft Beer Week, which kicked off this past weekend, June 15-16. Some in the craft beer industry are celebrating new regulations that the state legislature passed earlier this spring.

Sam Fonda pours a beer at Weathered Ground Brewery in Cool Ridge, West Virginia.
Janet Kunicki / WVPB

Craft breweries are popping up all over the region. In West Virginia alone, there are 27 breweries and three quarters of them opened in the last five years.

Sam Fonda, from Weathered Ground Brewery in Raleigh County, West Virginia, has almost 3,000 gallons of soon-to-be-beer fermenting and another 1,000 gallons aging in oak barrels nearby at any given time. That may sound like a lot, but his typical batch is 220 gallons, and that gives him the chance to experiment.


WVU Press

The book “Appalachia North” by Matthew Ferrence takes a look at what it means to be from Appalachia and not realize it. He grew up in a part of Pennsylvania that’s part of Appalachia according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, but no one there acknowledged that fact.

Matthew Ferrence describes “Appalachia North” as a geological, cultural and as a personal journey. It’s a memoir.

Courtesy / Marshall University

Dan D’Antoni never got far from his roots, even though basketball took him away from his home in Mullens, West Virginia for nearly 50 years. He continued to be a proud son of the Mountain State while teaching the world about the unique style of basketball that he says came from the courts he grew up on.

Eric Douglas / WVPB

West Virginia is home to numerous beverage companies that brew beer, distill spirits and syrups and press cider. The state also boasts farmers who produce fruits and grains those bottlers could use.

The problem is the two groups are often disconnected.

The “Craft: Farm to Bottle Summit” in South Charleston earlier week this aimed to address that gap, bringing the two groups together and helping each understand the other’s needs. The Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) in Huntington organized the summit. More than 100 people attended.

courtesy Mike Costello

In this episode of Inside Appalachia, we’re taking another look at the sugar shacks of Appalachian maple producers, and we’ll learn how to use syrup in everything from glazed greens to buttermilk ice cream – and even roasted rabbit. 

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