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Spooks Branch, a human history story

Spooks Branch was a singular place in settlers’ loreby Rob NeufeldImportant editorial note:This is a significant historical story that is also, in parts, personal and controversial.  It is about a few families who settled a particular cove and played out their heroic and complex legacies in ways that interacted with place and time.  You don't read this kind of story much because people don't like to expose themselves or stir up trouble, even a little.  This caution makes history classes boring…See More
4 hours ago
Dawn Trowell Jones updated their profile
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Rise of Asheville by Marilyn Ball

History of the "Asheville 1000" and the 1970s renaissance                       Let’s not miss the history of Asheville’s renaissance, Marilyn Ball’s new book, “The Rise of Asheville,” advocates.            She’d come here in 1977, making her one of the advance guard of “artists, entrepreneurs, and off-the-grid…See More
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Century-ago woman's apple cake recipe

Mmm, them apples in Beaverdam coveIn 1972, Helen Nelon wrote about the traditions of old-time Spooks Branch, off Beaverdam Road.  Here's what she said about her use of apples in a cake.(The full story of Spooks Branch will appear soon.)There were apples for delicious cider cooled in the spring "dreem" (drain), apples for frying for cold winter days, and for special days there were dried apple sauce fruit cakes.These cakes were made of very thin, sweet dough with dried apple sauce spread between…See More
Nov 18
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Nov 16
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Dignity is the key to Richard Russo's inspiration

So funny, and yet so exposing--Richard Russo's geniusSnakes on the lane            In Richard Russo's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Empire Falls, the protagonist, Miles recalls the time his father, driving, had accelerated into a box on a highway.  “What if that box had been full of rocks?” Miles asks.  Unfazed, Max quizzes his son about what he would do about the box.  Max says he'd stop and look in it,  “What if it was full of rattlesnakes? “ his father asks.            The verbal match…See More
Nov 14
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Nov 13
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Nov 12
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Humanize the history--especially with Civil War--writes acclaimed author

Writer illuminates tangled web of Civil Warby Rob Neufeld             David Madden has written a book, “The Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction,” that deserves special attention.            First, there’s Madden’s background.  In 1992, he founded the U.S. Civil War Center in New…See More
Nov 12
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Nov 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 10
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

Coming attraction--Singleton at Malaprop's & City Lights for Calloustown

George Singleton's latest collection of stories, Calloustown...features the folk who try to survive in a place that has little to offer besides a Finger Museum and a taxidermy petting zoo,It's funny, but also tragic and angry.  The review, "Love-hate humor cries in Calloustown," appears in the Asheville Citizen-Times, Sunday, 11/15/2015.  Singleton's at Malaprop’s Bookstore, 7 p.m., Wed., Nov. 18; and at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21.Here's an excerpt from the…See More
Nov 10
Lockie Hunter posted an event

Juniper Bends Quarterly Reading at DownTown Books & News

November 13, 2015 from 7pm to 8pm
Our very special Autumnal edition starts at 7PM and is sure to be a lively and vibrant set, with featured writers Randi Janelle, Tina FireWolf, Logan Parker, and Annabelle Crowe. Two of our readers have new books out, and as always there is wine flowing by donation. Hosts Lockie Hunter and Caroline Wilson look forward to seeing you there----remember, your wellbeing depends upon it.See More
Nov 9
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Love and Mercy ~ Up On Roan Mountain

My family lived and loved up on Roan Mountain and in the surrounding mountain areas, and this is their story. It's woven into a tapestry that weaves down through the years, before the days of the Civil War and up to present day. They were…
Nov 9
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

It's All Relative--50 WNC women write about family

Family life as perceived by 50 WNC authorsby Rob Neufeld             If you have biases against small press books or anthologies of local writers’ work, I recommend you lay them aside and take a look at “It’s All Relative” (Stone Ivy Press), 52 stories and poems by 50 WNC women authors writing about family.           …See More
Nov 6

A metamorphosed fundamentalist crafts her memoir

by Rob Neufeld


            Virginia Redfield, age 88 of Asheville, has written a remarkable book—“Night Bloom,” a memoir about her liberation from a closely guarded fundamentalist household, aided in that passage by a humanities education and ultimately supported by her parents’ rock solid love for her.

            Her childhood in Depression-era Miami had included no playmates.  One girl, for instance, was found guilty of wearing shorts when she’d visited, and was banished. 

            Virginia—called “Baby” by her mother, and “Mister” by her father—also had no pets, except for a duck soon sent away for annoying neighbors, to be replaced by a voiceless Muscovy, which Virginia disconsolately rejected.

            Until she was grown, Virginia slept in her parents’ bedroom, gladdened only by the scent of night-blooming jasmine outside her window. 

            Her mother kept giving their handyman, Jack, instructions to cut the unruly plant.  Virginia learned from Jack that jasmine sends off shoots that root, and is very hard to kill—a symbol.

            “The nights I dreaded,” Redfield writes, were the ones when her mother could be heard “padding along the tile floor…Often she fell on her knees beside my cot and began to pray, sobbing, stretching her body across mine.”

            Mama begged God to take her precious child.  “I’d rather dig a hole, O Lord,” she pleaded, “and put her in a box and put the box in the ground than have her be like Rosalie,” Mama’s wayward younger sister.  She’d tell God how she’d given her only child to him before she was born, “like Hannah in the Bible.”    


One-way house


            For over half of the book, we see Virginia grow up in this environment.  It is a privilege to get a first-hand, unadorned, insider account of life in such a rare, true, private society.

            And it is rare.  When Virginia’s mother goes to her daughter’s high school principal to protest the “indecent gym outfits” that girls are required to wear, he tells Mrs. Haynes, “Five hundred and ninety-nine other mothers don’t find them indecent.”

            At the Haynes’ dinner table, “Mom” prays that her loved ones be saved, and lays out their current transgressions.  “Dad,” a property buyer and fixer, does not share his wife’s passion for righteousness, but accedes to keep the peace.

            The family’s experience with Central Church of the Nazarene provides much interest, as preachers come and go and stay at the Haynes home.  A trio of “Prayer Warriors” convenes in Sister Haynes’ “Prophet’s Room,” their news and deliberations overheard by Virginia in her hiding place.

            When a hurricane converges on Miami, several families camp out at the Hayneses, for the house had survived the hurricane of 1926.  In fact, that earlier event leads off the novel.  Virginia’s mom had moved her baby into her and Dad’s bedroom from the crib room moments before the crib room’s roof had blown off and crashed down.


Away from homeward


            Virginia’s graduation from high school starts the process of her finding herself.  Her parents allow her to take an English 101 summer course at the University of Miami before heading to Trevecca Nazarene College in Nashville; and when Trevecca literally sickens Virginia, they allow her to go back to the university (only three days a week, so she can be monitored for ungodliness in between).

            At the university, Virginia encounters Dr. Tharp, who introduces her to Thomas Wolfe and “Look Homeward, Angell.”

            “By saying what he felt,” Redfield writes, “Thomas Wolfe  gave me permission to acknowledge to myself what I felt—beyond the Bible, beyond the preachers, beyond Mama.”  Like herself, Eugene Gant was searching, via literature, for a way to break free of a confining upbringing.

            Redfield also writes, “The person I was at Church was my base; school was an excursion.”  From her church base, she took away a passion for stripped-down honesty, minus the fear of temptation’s damning power.


A triumph


            “‘Night Bloom’ has been in the making for several decades,” Redfield notes in her acknowledgements.

            A full appreciation of her achievement takes into account the accomplished way in which she has constructed her story.  What may seem like simply the chronological presentation of key episodes at first turns out to be a building up to perfectly placed, held off revelations.

            I wanted to know more about Virginia’s inheritance from her parents, and about their legacies, and wondered if I’d get that deepness from the book; and I did.

            It also has to be mentioned that the two chapters in which Virginia and her father meet and talk with Thomas Wolfe’s mother, Julia, are a treasure.  Not only do these chapters add significantly to Wolfe lore and serve as a credit to Redfield’s remembering power, they also beautifully reveal the father’s character.

            The publication of “Night Bloom” is a testimony not only to the author’s life, but also to the writers’ support community in Asheville.  Noticed by Tommy Hays, director of the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, the manuscript was passed to other writers, and nurtured, and eventually published as an e-book with help from Kevin McIlvoy, a member of the faculty in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College.

            “More than one of us found ourselves saying, ‘Yes!’” to the question, “Read anything great lately?” McIlvoy relates,  and “sharing our frustration that it (“Night Bloom”) had not yet found publication...and, eventually, sharing our determination that this remarkable book be given its chance to lay claim to others’ hearts as it has claimed our own hearts.”



Night Bloom: A Memoir by Virginia Redfield (e-book, April, 2012, 296 pages).



Virginia Redfield and her parents in the 1940s (from the author’s website,

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