Radio Bristol Book Club: Hiding Ezra

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Each month, readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together 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!

October’s book, Hiding Ezra by Rita Sims Quillen, is set in the Appalachian hills of southwest Virginia during World War I. It is a poignant and moving story with endearing characters who are struggling with the difficulties of war. At a time when families are forced into lives seemingly out of their control, Ezra Teague finds himself having to choose between his country and his family. This beautifully written narrative is a story that centers on love and consequences, and it’s also a story about what is morally right or wrong in questions of the heart. Ezra must make an incredibly difficult decision about which path his life will take, but one thing we do know is this: Ezra is not a coward, and he’s not a pacifist; rather he is a farmer, a Christian, and a family man. Hiding Ezra, which was published in 2014, was a finalist in the 2015 DANA Awards competition, and a chapter from the novel was included in a scholarly study of Appalachian dialect, Talking Appalachian.

The cover of Hiding Ezra is a pencil drawing of a white clapboard church with a woman and several children standing at the window and a man sitting (hiding?) outside on the ground beside the church.
The cover to Rita Sims Quillen’s Hiding Ezra. The cover art was drawn by renowned Appalachian artist Willard Gayheart.

Rita Sims Quillen knew of her literary future from an early age – indeed, she started telling her teachers in the 4th grade that she would be a writer when she grew up. Her whole life, she has loved and devoured books, and she has written novels and poetry centered on the Appalachian Mountains and the people who live here. While writing poetry is her first love, Quillen was also a teacher, retiring after 33 years of community college teaching in Tennessee and Virginia, later specializing in American and Appalachian literature and acting as co-editor to the textbook A Southern Appalachian Reader. Her poetry book Something Solid to Anchor To was published in 2014, and another poetry collection, The Mad Farmer’s Wife (2016), was a finalist for the prestigious Weatherford Award in Appalachian Literature from Berea College.

Quillen is also a multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, mandolin, piano, dulcimer, autoharp, bass, and bodhran, and she has recently begun writing songs. She won first place in the 2015 Gathering in the Gap Songwriting Contest and was also a finalist in the Richard Leigh Songwriting Competition that same year. Rita lives and farms on Early Autumn Farm in Scott County, Virginia.

A blonde woman wearing a blue top and pants with a lavender scarf around her neck. She is standing at a wooden fence gate and you can see a black cow behind her in the distance.
The author Rita Sims Quillen on her farm. Taken from author’s website

Be sure to tune in on Thursday, October 22 at 11:00am to hear the book club discussion about Hiding Ezra, followed by an interview with the author! You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. And be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this wonderful musical journey!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for November is Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives by Holly Gleason which we’ll be discussing on Thursday, November 19 (a week early due to Thanksgiving). Happy reading!

Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director of the Bristol Public Library.

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