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Julia Nunnally Duncan Featured at High Country Writers Meeting at Watauga County Public Library

June 14, 2018 from 10am to 12pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be the featured presenter at the High Country Writers Meeting on June 14, 10 a.m.-12 noon at the Watauga County Public Library in Boone. She will discuss her inspirations and the process of becoming a published author. She will present readings from her latest books A Part of Me and A Place That Was Home and give a preview of her forthcoming poetry collection A Neighborhood Changes. A book signing will follow her presentation.See More
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A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 21, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Saturday, April 21, 2018 at 7:30 pm, join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her "Taking the Stage" workshop participants, for an enchanting evening of storytelling in picturesque Black Mountain, NC. You'll enjoy a variety of stories and storytelling styles featuring tellers Jane O Cunningham from Rome, GA; Gabriele Marewski from Black Mountain, NC; Christine Phillips Westfeldt - Fairview,…See More
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Writers Circle around the Table

We are located in Hayesville, NC. In April we begin our new season with outstanding Poet Mike James. Mike will read at Writers' Night Out in Blairsville, GA on Friday evening April 13. On Saturday, April 14, he will teach a class at my studio.Formally SpeakingThis class will focus on different types of traditional poetic forms such as the sonnet, the villanelle, and the sestina, and will also include other verse forms such as erasures, found poems, prose poems, and last poems.Contact Glenda…See More
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Rachel Carson, Silent Spring Chautauqua History Alive at UNC Asheville, OLLI Reuters Center, Manheimer Room

April 15, 2018 from 3pm to 4:30pm
Step inside the revolutionary book, Silent Spring as its author Rachel Carson reveals the reckless destruction of our living world. Written more than 55 years ago Silent Spring inspired the Environmental Movement and has never been out of print. And now you have a chance to ask the author, Rachel Carson, how this came to be. But these aren’t just performances. They’re a chance to step into Living History – to ask questions and go one on one with a women whose books shaped our country and our…See More
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"She looks like I look in my imagination right before I've had my coffee ... relaxed, bothered (by something, anything) and fully aware that I'm almost, but not quite, the center of the universe ... a feeling that quickly fades after that…"
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Mom in Her Writing Nook ...

She was working on the "About the Authors" section of "Echoes Across the Blue Ridge" when I captured this one morning. Though you can't see it, her coffee cup was within gentle reach that morning. Roxie is at her feet.
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Feb 15

"Hillbilly Stereotypes: Picking Up Pine Knots And Going To War" By Betty Cloer Wallace


Bill O’Reilly’s recent contemptible rant against Appalachian Americans is only the latest example of the widespread and multigenerational problem of Appalachian hillbilly stereotypes. Quite simply, O’Reilly reminded the world once again that people of the Appalachian Mountains are still the only cultural group in America that many people have the audacity to ridicule publicly as being of low intelligence, and worse. 



Can you imagine if O'Reilly had made the same despicable statements about ________ in _________, or ________ in ________, or _______ in ________. (Fill in the blanks with any racial or ethnic or cultural slurs you can imagine, the more insensitive the better.)

How can we as a people ever overcome this pervasive hillbilly stereotype? Why do we continue to pull in our heads like turtles and pretend we don't care and that we will survive regardless of the outside world? Well, I do care—for myself, my family and friends, and my culture—and I don't believe that we are surviving very well or will survive in the future as a culture with a shred of honor and dignity if we do not rise up, en masse, and protest at every opportunity this kind of insensitive abuse.

We continue to loll about in our insular Snuffy Smith, Lil Abner, Mammy Yokum, Jed Clampett, grits-and-possum stereotype as if the opinion of the rest of the world does not matter, even while we are being brutalized every time someone laughs at our dialect or accent, or asks WHERE are you from, or rejects us for a job, or does not publish our writing because how could an ignorant hillbilly possibly have something to say.

A professor at the University of Colorado once said to our own Charles Frazier, "Imagine that! A hillbilly with a Ph.D.!" Even worse than the professor thinking such a misbegotten thought was that she felt entitled to publicly say it right to his face. Can you imagine her making that statement to a person of any other racial or ethnic or cultural group? "Imagine that! A ______ with a Ph.D.!"



As much as I love COLD MOUNTAIN, both book and movie, I hated the "Young Mammy Yokum" portrayal of Ruby by Renee Zellweger who won an Academy Award for it. (Frazier’s Ruby in the book had a quiet strength and wisdom, as do most native Appalachian people.) As much as I love our bluegrass music, I hated the stereotypical portrayal of ignorance in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

And, when I worked in the Alaskan Arctic, an Eskimo woman who had seen a "Songcatcher" DVD asked me why hillbillies don't fix up their houses. She thought the stage-set ramshackle buildings in that movie were really the kind in which we actually live—rather like us stereotyping Eskimos as living in ice-block igloos, the difference being that we are stereotyped as being too dumb or lazy to fix up our houses while Eskimos are stereotyped as being intelligent enough to survive in an extreme place. 



In the age of global communication, this debilitating hillbilly stereotype is pervasive even internationally, and it affects us negatively on so many levels.

For the past century, companies that have considered our region for placing new enterprises have looked for local "hands" to do their low-level jobs, while bringing in management and executives (the “brains”) from outside; and now no one even considers Appalachia as a place where management would want to bring their own families to live or where intelligent local people might be available for employment. 



Further compounding the problem, too many of our local governments are now made up of second-tier pseudo-leaders who are interested primarily in promoting tourism; but who, we should ask ourselves, will own the new hotels and mountaintop second-homes and assorted eateries the appointed tourist boards and self-serving chambers of commerce say we need—and who will be paying increased taxes for infrastructure to support them, and cleaning their rooms and waiting their tables and manicuring their lawns?

The local "hands," of course, are expected to do those low-level jobs. This servant mentality is deeply embedded in our history and culture and language, and all of us have perpetuated it simply by not rising up and fighting it. “He/she is a good hand to_____," we say.



Zell Miller of Georgia is the only well-known person who has ever stood up publicly to try to end this crippling multigenerational Appalachian stereotype. He single-handedly created enough flak several years ago to prevent television producers from creating a Beverly Hillbillies Reality Show that would have placed an Appalachian family in a Beverly Hills mansion and ridiculed them for a year. Can you imagine if the producers had even suggested doing the same with a Beverly _____ Reality Show? (You fill in the blank with the most insensitive racial or ethnic or cultural slur you can think of.)

The reality show producers even advertised in our local newspapers for an ignorant mountain family, all expenses paid. Can you imagine the justifiable outrage if they had placed such advertisements in the Atlanta or Birmingham or New York papers for an ignorant _____ family to send out to Beverly Hills and ridicule for a year.



While some racial and ethnic and cultural groups recently tried to get a newspaper cartoonist fired, and rightfully so, for depicting the shooting of a "stimulus plan gorilla,” O'Reilly was shooting down the future of an entire culture by perpetuating a century-old stereotype in the most egregious and offensive manner—and we ought to be outraged. We ought to care, and care deeply, because the issue is infinitely larger and more far-reaching than simply our own personal irritation with O’Reilly.

Actually, O'Reilly is small potatoes when one considers what we as a culture are up against. This negative stereotyping of our culture is becoming more focused and pronounced than ever before, simply because it has become politically incorrect to target other groups. Think of all the other minorities in this country who are discriminated against. Are any of them summarily and publicly declared to be ignorant and of low IQ? Can you name any other such group?

Other minorities may be insidiously stereotyped and discriminated against for assorted other reasons, but they are not blatantly and openly ridiculed as ignorant. And now, O'Reilly has added "immoral" and "drug-addicted" to our litany of Appalachian stereotypes, as well as our being unworthy to live in our own mountain homeland. Our children should move to Miami, he says. Oh, my.

Even "rednecks," who are everywhere and are a social class rather than a culture, are not dismissed as ignorant and inferior to other people because of intelligence. In fact, rednecks are often praised for their many independent and self-sufficient attributes, except for those rednecks who also happen to be classified as ignorant hillbillies in one-gallused overalls sleeping with their sisters and the farm animals.

Fortunately some "outlanders" do "get it" and are embarrassed by the likes of O’Reilly, but the fact remains that no one outside of an abused group can truly "feel" it without having "felt" it. No one without minority physical characteristics or other personal differences can truly "feel" that discrimination. No one outside someone with a mountain accent (or any other accent or dialect outside the prevailing norm) can "feel" a job interviewer lose interest when you open your mouth to answer a question.

O'Reilly is hate-filled, but he is not a fool. He has built an empire by spouting the poisonous hatred that millions of people want to hear. They do listen to him and are influenced by him. While he himself is not fully the issue, he is a flash point for bigotry and intolerance, and that is why he is dangerous.



Yes, O’Reilly is a catalyst, but he is not the source of our problem. We are. We are to blame for not doing everything we can to root out such ignorant O’Reilly-type bigotry, to expose it for what it is, and then to replace it by honoring who we really are—by honoring our centuries-old heritage of persistence, perseverance, courage, loyalty, and love of freedom nourished for generations by our Scottish, English, Irish, German, Welsh, and Cherokee ancestors.

Why can we not pick up our pine knots and go to war against this blatant, insidious destruction of our culture? It will not take care of itself, and no one else is going to do it for us. 



For the past 125 years, especially during wars and periods of economic depression, people have come into our mountains to exploit us as easy targets as they irreversibly destroy our forests, scalp our mountaintops, pollute our rivers, turn our community schools into mega-institutions, raise our taxes, rape our land with roads and airports and cookie-cutter shopping malls, and ultimately pollute our DNA. 



It becomes increasingly harder to identify real native mountaineers, and within a few more generations our real culture, like that of the Melungeons, may fade into oblivion long before the stereotypes disappear. Our centuries-old physical characteristics will be gone, along with our language, values, customs, ethics, and morals; and that is why it is important for writers and storytellers and videographers to work overtime now to record our rapidly vanishing culture, to record who we are.

Children in the future may be asking, "Who exactly were the hillbillies? Where did they live? Where did they come from? Where did they go?" And their mothers will respond, “You must not say that ‘H’ word. It is politically incorrect.”

Let us now pick up our pine knots and go to war—to save ourselves.

By Betty Cloer Wallace

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Comment by John Tackett on July 15, 2010 at 10:57am
I am so glad to hear that others feel the same way. I am a general manager for Staples and have faced this stereotype my whole life . We just have to fight back.We are the last group that this country feels like they can make fun of and get away with it.
Comment by CHARLES C FLETCHER on December 2, 2009 at 11:40pm
Betty,
I agree with you 100%. I am 88 years old,grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina. To leave the legacy of my life in those mountains to my children and future generations I have 3 books published and writing the 4th. All about how us hillbilles were raised. I started writing after my wife of 60 years died 6 years ago. The books are not on the best seller list but it is rewarding to hear from the ones that read and enjoy them.
I enjoyed reading your article.
Charles Fletcher
Comment by Kevin Morgan Watson on April 28, 2009 at 5:05pm
One thing I love about the the Appalachian novels of John Ehle is that his characters are not stereotypes; they are common, everyday folks of all moral and spiritual make up, just like the rest of us. I love this photo. Wouldn't it be nice to travel back and watch them go about their day and talk to them?
Comment by Sallie on March 18, 2009 at 12:34pm
Wonderful photo...I have one of my grandfather's family..I loved the post by Betty Cloer Wallace too..
Comment by Tipper on March 10, 2009 at 11:24am
Hey Betty! So glad you liked the picture I used! It's my grandmothers family. Her name was Gazzie Truett. She was the first born of her family. She is the 3rd one from the left on the first row. I've never heard about the traveling photographers-but I bet that's how the picture was taken. Thank you for the comment-and for letting me feature your great essay!
Comment by Betty Cloer Wallace on March 6, 2009 at 8:10pm
Tipper, what a wonderful family photograph! But whose family is it? My mother told me long ago that all of her old family photographs were made by traveling photographers who roamed the mountains. Everyone got all dressed up in their finery and posed, sometimes for long periods of time before they got it right. This looks like one of those old photographs.... with the sheets or blankets on the clothesline for a backdrop. My mother said that background helped the photographer control the light. In this photograph, what I really love is the physical resemblance among so many of the people, especially the shape of the brow and eyes. Wonderful!

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