Sunday, July 13, 2008

You Can Go Anywhere: From the Crossroads of the World by Georgia Green Stamper

There were several things that made me want to read this book:

(1) The comment made by Gwyn Hyman Rubio (author of Icy Sparks) on the back of the book jacket: "Georgia Green Stamper is to Kentucky what Bailey White is to Georgia." I am a huge Bailey White fan.

(2) The quote from Silas House on the back of the jacket where he says "Georgia Green Stamper's essays do that most important thing that only the most accomplished writers are sometimes lucky to do: capture and preserve a place, a time, and its people." I adore the writing of Silas House.

(3) In the Introduction, Leatha Kendrick quotes one of my favorite passages from Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire in evoking the power and precision of Ms. Stamper's writing to capture that time and place and people that Silas House mentions: "This is the most beautiful place on earth. There are many such places. Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary."

Her essays are split into sections titled "A Little Bit of our Soul", "Family is our Unique Slant on History", "You Might as well Laugh, Mother Always Said", and "The Seasons...would always be Changing". These essays are filled with humor and insight and are very thought-provoking. The Appalachian region has a wonderful tradition of oral storytelling. Books like this, where you capture that tradition so lovingly between two covers are essential.

Georgia Green Stamper is a seventh generation Kentuckian who grew up on a tobacco farm in Owen County. She and her husband still own land that has been in the family for over a hundred and fifty years. I am an Alabama girl who's family still lives on land that my grandparents worked and who just happened to marry a Kentucky boy who lives on the land his father worked himself into an early grave over.

But I do know her people. They are my people too. And though she says her people were common folk in the eyes of the world, people of small consequence, her stories show that she appreciates growing up and being immersed in a family's culture and history. That despite the outward poverty of their lives (outhouses, coal burning stoves, drafty houses with linoleum floors, unpaved roads and one room schoolhouses), these people and this way of life had an innate wisdom and rhythm to it that is fast disappearing, and yet is wonderfully preserved in her stories. She is speaking their piece for them to anyone who will listen. And I hope that we will all cast an ear in her direction.

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