From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Novelist House (Clay's Quilt) and Kentucky journalist Howard, both "children of Appalachia," decided to pick up where the national media have left off in their environmental obsession, illuminating the long-growing mining crisis in Central Appalachia. Twelve Appalachians-among them a college student, former union organizers, community activists and the octogenarian "mother of folk," Jean Ritchey-provide first-hand accounts of a disappearing way of life, a vital ecology in rapid decline, an industry that refuses to take responsibility for the devastation it causes (blowing the tops off mountains is only the latest, most destructive technique), and a nation too hooked on cheap energy to help. If nothing else, these oral histories will give readers a sense of what's at stake on a personal level. Student Nathan Hall calls mining the best job he ever had: "I met the most interesting characters of my life... the most hilarious, most good hearted." Says Judy Bond, lifelong resident of the leading coal-producing county in W.V., "The more coal we mine, the poorer we get." This important collection illuminates the ongoing betrayal of the American mining town.
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*Starred Review* Of all the destructive practices our energy-hungry society has invented, mountaintop-removal coal mining is the worst. After “an entire mountain is blown up for a relatively thin seam of coal,” topsoil, rocks, and trees are shoved into valleys, burying streams, killing plants and animals, and endangering people. Appalachians have tolerated this because they have always looked to King Coal for employment, but mountaintop removal actually eliminates jobs, and now the “voices of the people” of coal country are rising in protest. House and Howard vividly profile 12 remarkable Appalachians, many with generations of coal miners in their family tree, who are bravely speaking out in defense of Appalachia’s threatened landscape, wildlife, and human communities. In memory-laced, sometimes funny, sometimes harrowing oral histories, each activist shares tales of environmental awakenings and risky activism, among them folksinger Jean Ritchie; writer Denise Giardina; Carl Shoupe, a former deep miner; and whistle-blower Jack Spadaro. All 12 eco-heroes are mesmerizing, informative, and motivating as they articulate their moral and spiritual convictions, love for the land, and pride in Appalachian culture, while calling for responsible mining and respect and protection for all of life. --Donna Seaman