Radio Bristol Book Club: Gone Home – Race and Roots Through Appalachia

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library are coming together each month to celebrate and explore one book inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage. We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11:00am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Appalachia has a strong place in our consciousness, and the prevailing view of it often focuses in on politics; the opioid crisis; the idea of “hillbilly”; increasing job losses; and a declining population. However, within this, the stories of black Appalachians are too often ignored. Karida Brown’s Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia seeks to redress that balance as she explores the lives and histories of African Americans from the coal mines and towns of Harlan County, Kentucky. From the migration that brought African American families and workers to coal mining (one step in the larger African American Great Migration) to the realities of race and racism they faced to their everyday lives and the routes taken towards new opportunities, Brown sets the context and then shares oral histories from over 150 interviews so that the people who lived and worked there can tell their own stories.

The cover of Gone Home shows a black coal miner walking along a street of family homes, presumably on his way to the mines or after a long day at work. Women and children stand outside one of the houses.
The cover of Karida Brown’s Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia highlights the focus of her book – the everyday lives of African American coal miners and their families. From the University of North Carolina Press

Karida L. Brown is assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where her research focuses on race, social transformations, and communal memory. During her Ph.D. at Brown University, she did research as part of the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project, a collaboration with the Southern Historical Collection at UNC Chapel Hill. In 2019, she was named to the advisory board of the Obama Presidency Oral History Project, along with a host of presidential historians and scholars, acclaimed journalists, and other scholars.

A formal portrait of Karida Brown.
Karida Brown’s official author photograph, taken by Brian L. Christian.

Start your New Year’s reading resolution off right by making plans to join us on Thursday, January 23 at 11:00am! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time; the librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this book’s interesting story, told by the people themselves.

Our book pick for February is The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, February 27. And keep an eye out for our full list of 2020 Radio Bristol Book Club picks – they will be up on our website soon!

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